Letter to the Editor

Reservoir needs overflow spillway

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

To the editor:

Why does the upper reservoir at the Taum Sauk power plant no have an overflow spillway? Nobody seems to have noticed that an overflow spillway on the upper reservoir would be an effective safety feature that would protect the power-generating station and the neighbors from a spillover caused by pumps that were supposed to shut off but did not do so when the upper reservoir was already full.

Electric company computers can be hacked or sabotaged and made inoperative. Water-level sensors can break. Data transmission from the sensor to the central computer can be lost. The central computer's signal to stop pumping may not arrive or be acted upon by the pumps. But gravity always works. With an upper reservoir overflow spillway in place, some electricity would be wasted as overflowing pumped water flowed back downhill, but catastrophic failure of the reservoir and downstream damage would not happen. The cost of installing a spillway system is far less than the cost of damage repair.

A spillway is designed to handle overflow. A reservoir wall is not. Water pouring over the reservoir wall weakened the materials supporting the wall and led to wall collapse and catastrophic failure of the reservoir.

The Taum Sauk pumpback power plant should be returned to operation, but with a fail-safe, gravity-powered, overflow spillway installed at the upper reservoir.

WILLIAM JUD, Fredericktown, Mo.