Failing Taunton (MA) Dam Built In 1832

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Taunton Residents endured a second day of nerve-racking waiting with no end in sight, as an aged, failing wooden dam just outside downtown strained to protect the city's commercial and residential hub from potentially catastrophic flooding.

"It could go on for days," said Mayor Robert Nunes of the crisis that had forced the indefinite evacuation of a nearly 3-square mile area of this sprawling, working- class city.

Just north of downtown, the Whittenton Pond Dam's safety rails warped, part of its rotted wooden foundation strained, one of its water gates failed, and the resulting vibrations from all this threatened yesterday to overwhelm it, said authorities.

But by late yesterday, the pre-Civil War era dam was still standing, and the water levels of the lake that feeds the rain-swollen Mill River had dropped several inches, said state officials.

"Essentially what you've got is an old structure that was poorly maintained, which is essentially suffering from fatigue," said Michael Misslin, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. "Struc tures that are prone to weakness reveal themselves at the worst possible times."
This week's crisis was not Taunton's first brush with flooding and potential dam failures.

Charles Crowley, a local historian and member of the Taunton City Council for the past 18 years, said the dam was built in 1832 and last underwent a significant renovation in 1959.

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