VASS TOWNSHIP, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Owners of the maligned Woodlake Dam have either missed or ignored two critical deadlines recently imposed by North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality.
A Dam Safety Order (DSO) issued on November 17 mandated that Woodlake must have had its engineers begin work on a temporary breach of the dam by December 8 and be completed by December 31. Additionally, the DSO gives the dam owners 91 days from the order's issue for engineers to submit complete plans for the repair of the dam.
According to the DSO, had the conditions not been met, the owners could face fines of up to $500 a day.
SEE THE WOODLAKE DAM SAFETY ORDER ISSUED IN NOVEMBER (.pdf)
A spokesperson for the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) told ABC11 that Woodlake was given five days from December 8 to provide a written response to the DEQ with an update on their plans and work. Internal memos shown to the I-Team revealed even Woodlake's engineering firm, Geosyntec, had yet to hear from Woodlake owner, Dr. Illya Steiner, or its manager, Julie Watson.
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"Failure to comply with the order may result in enforcement action, which can include the assessment of a criminal penalty, assessment of a civil penalty or a request to the Attorney General's Office for injunctive relief," the DEQ wrote to ABC11 in a statement.
An ABC11 I-Team investigation revealed a history of negligence on the part of the owners - German investors Ingolf Boex and Illya Steiner - and a failure on the part of the DEQ to enforce the many DSOs and notices delivered during the past decade.
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Hurricane Matthew exposed the dangers of that neglect when crews found a ruptured spillway, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents. The National Guard was called in a frenzy to plug the leak with sandbags.
As the I-Team also reported, the risk of impending breach forced the DEQ and FEMA to bring in pumps to drain the lake and reduce pressure on the failing dam. The result has been the disappearance of Woodlake, which was a desired spot for waterfront properties. The lake was once home to fish, frogs, flora, fauna and many species of birds.
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The Woodlake owners have ignored repeated requests for comment, as has the Watson, the manager.
On the same day our I-Team's report aired, Woodlake hired public relations firm Apco Worldwide to represent it. In a statement emailed to ABC11 on October 28, spokeswoman Devyn McDonald wrote:
"The safety of Woodlake Country Club residents, members, guests and our surrounding neighbors is our top priority...The interim remedy is intended to rapidly improve the protectiveness of the dam until a final remedy is designed, permitted, and implemented. The final remedy process will require ongoing collaboration with the state regulators until a final solution is in place. We want to emphasize that throughout this process the protection of human safety and the environment are our top priorities."
Despite several requests, McDonald would not answer any questions about the latest DSO or Woodlake's noncompliance.