Phillipston Reservoir about to be emptied for repairs to dam.
PHILLIPSTON - They've found the valve and gotten permission from the state, and there is just one more step before workers from the Athol Public Works Department empty Phillipston Reservoir.
"We found the valve, but the question is if it is going to open. It's been in the ground for 130 years," Athol Public Works Director Douglas Walsh said.
The reservoir, which is two-thirds in Phillipston and one-third in Athol, is owned by Athol. It is between Routes 2 and 2A on the Athol-Phillipston line.
Athol is looking to lower the water to see what needs to be done to repair the dam. The town discovered severe deterioration in the dam during a recent inspection.
The town has been waiting for several days to get the go-ahead from the state to release the water. It has also been searching for a valve that would allow the town to lower the water without breaching the dam. A pit filled with rubble was found last week; the valve was underneath.
Mr. Walsh said the concrete in the pit may be the remains of a cover that broke many years ago. He speculated that tight finances at the time prevented the cover from being replaced.
"If we can get the valve to work, we'll probably start work tomorrow," he said yesterday afternoon.
The big concern, he said, is that with spring melt not far off, increased water in the reservoir could place enough stress on the dam to cause it to breach. A small amount of water leaks through it. If the dam were to breach, water could flood across or severely damage Route 2A.
The valve would allow the gradual lowering of the water into a culvert that runs under Route 2A. It would then flow off into Thousand Acre Brook and eventually into Thousand Acre Swamp. The swamp is to the north of Route 2A.
The area around the reservoir was posted with no trespassing signs last week, mainly to keep people from ice fishing there. Athol opened the reservoir to fishing after it stopped using it as a reservoir. Mr. Walsh said the lowering of the water would create an unsafe condition.
CUTLINE: Newly posted no trespassing signs warn people away from the reservoir.
PHOTOG: GEORGE BARNES