In Benton, AR, $10M Reservoir Near Collapse, Study Says

Fri July 23, 2004 - West Edition

BENTON, AR (AP) A new study states that the city of Benton’s $10 million water reservoir may be near collapse after years of problematic construction.

The study from Anderson Engineering cites several problems and says that if the reservoir were to collapse it would likely flood the Saline River.

“Significant remedial measures will be required to ensure that the structure will meet its long-term performance goals in a condition that is safe for the public,” the report from Anderson Engineering stated in a draft to the city.

The report also said, “Abandonment of the facility may, economically speaking, be an alternative for consideration.”

The reservoir is 25-ft. deep and covers an area equal to more than 100 football fields along the Saline River. It contains a 120-day emergency water supply for Benton.

In addition to the report, it seems the city never obtained a permit from the state for the reservoir.

The Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission has no record of a permit for the reservoir, said Earl Smith, the commission’s water management chief.

“I can’t find that the structure was ever permitted,” he said.

Smith said if the state had granted a permit for the reservoir, the commission would have reviewed the plans and inspected the construction site.

The project was funded with a bond issue and refunds from a county sales tax that a court ruled was an illegal pay out. When construction was finished in August of 2001 it cost $9.9 million.

The study said that problems with the reservoir include inadequate testing, poor location and soils used during construction that would allow water to seep and weaken the structure. The report stated that the reservoir may need a redesign and reconstruction to meet long-term goals.

Mike Bolin of Affiliated Engineers Inc. of Hot Springs, the project engineer, said the firm is prepared to pay for any deficiencies it caused and accepted partial blame for the problems. But Bolin said he didn’t think the reservoir would have to be abandoned or replaced.

“I think there will need to be considerable work done before it is in compliance with state standards. A lot of things still need to be hashed out,” Bolin said.

Mayor Rick Holland said the reservoir always has been problematic. But he said it was too early to tell what should be done.

Engineer Says Permit Wasn’t Needed

for Benton Reservoir

The height of the walls of the $10 million water reservoir on the Saline River made it exempt from needing a state permit, the engineer who designed the project said.

Bolin said if the reservoir’s walls were less than 25-ft. high, it didn’t need a permit.

But the report from Anderson Engineering puts the height of the reservoir’s walls at 25.2 ft. Bolin said they are between 12 and 15 feet tall.

“I talked to Soil and Water during construction, which began in 1998,” Bolin said. “The decision was that a permit wasn’t necessary.”

As of June 14, Smith said he expected to send a team over to the reservoir by the end of the week to inspect it.

“What we heard was that the structure wasn’t going to be tall enough to meet the requirement,” Smith said. “We’re going out there to see if they meet those exemptions or not.”

Smith said a report may come in about a month.