Restoring Ballinger Lake Dam in Medford Lakes, NJ

Medford Lakes is a borough in Burlington County, New Jersey that consists of 22 lakes, and more than 10% of the homes there are log cabins. Located just 25 miles east of Philadelphia, within the New Jersey Pinelands Commission Management Area, the Borough is overseen by the Medford Lakes Colony (MLC), a homeowners association that manages social events and recreation activities for the community and also manages its “Lake Restoration Fund.” All homeowners in the community contribute to the Fund, which is used to manage and monitor lake water quality and maintain water control structures like dams and culverts.

Medford Lakes and its surrounding neighborhoods contain approximately 60 dams. The MLC retained Princeton Hydro to provide various engineering services for multiple dam structures throughout the Borough, including periodic visual inspections, dam breach and inundation analysis, and maintenance and repair work.

Ballinger Lake, located at the intersection of Lenape Trail and Stokes Road, contains a dam that is registered as a Class I – High Hazard Dam with NJDEP Division of Dam Safety. Immediately downstream from the dam is Main Street Medford Lakes, a congested portion of the Medford Lakes Borough.

The dam, originally constructed in the 1920s, is an earthen embankment dam with a clay core. Between 2000 – 2001, a reconstruction project took place that included the creation of both a primary and auxiliary spillway and a concrete culvert. The primary spillway consists of a concrete drop box and culvert that passes through the embankment. The auxiliary spillway, armored with articulated concrete block, is a low point on the embankment along Stokes Road.

In 2008, the Ballinger Lake Dam was inspected by Princeton Hydro and the NJDEP, Division of Dam Safety. The results of these inspections revealed considerable seepage at one of the concrete joints within the concrete culvert, a non-compliant trash rack assembly, a distressed gate valve assembly, and unstable downstream conditions.

Under Princeton Hydro’s direction, the lake was lowered to reduce the hydraulic load on the dam and to facilitate the required remediation and repairs. Princeton Hydro provided full turn-key engineering services that encompassed the development of the engineering documents and plans and preparation of all the permitting requirements (NJDEP Dam Safety, Pinelands Commission Certificate of Filing (CoF), NJDEP Dam Safety Emergency Permit, Burlington County Soil Conservation Erosion and Sediment Control, and NPDES permits). Our team also prepared the contractor bid specifications and provided construction oversight and management throughout the course of the repairs.

Throughout this process, Princeton Hydro completed multiple studies to characterize the hydraulic, hydrologic, structural, stability, geotechnical, and groundwater conditions at the dam under pre and post-repair conditions. The team eliminated the leakage and brought the dam back into compliance.  In 2019, MLC contracted Princeton Hydro to perform additional maintenance and improvements to the Ballinger Lake Dam spillway, outfall, and sluice gate.

The scope of work for the 2019 engineering and construction project included the following:

  • Replacement of the failed sluice gate structure
  • Installation of a baffled culvert extension on the downstream side of the existing culvert
  • Regrading of the downstream embankment to a shallower, uniform 3H:1V slope
  • Regrading of the levee crest to a uniform elevation
  • Riprap armament of the downstream channel
  • Various repairs to joints and spalls within the existing concrete dropbox and culvert structures.

The photo above, taken on September 23, 2019 by Princeton Hydro, shows a view of the lowered lake level and pumping intake hose.

Construction began on September 19, 2019 with the lowering of Ballinger Lake to facilitate the work within the existing dropbox structure. The lake lowering process was performed by a 6-inch centrifugal pump, which discharged water into the downstream channel. The photo above, taken on September 23, 2019, shows a view of the lowered lake level and pumping intake hose. After the lake was lowered below the dropbox crest, all of the concrete was power washed and work began to waterproof and repair all of the joints within the culvert.

The above photo, taken on October 17, 2019 by Princeton Hydro, shows the riprap being removed from the stream bed prior to pouring the flowable fill concrete mud mat.

In October, the team began removing portions of the existing stream bed riprap in preparation for pouring a flowable fill-based mud mat to level the foundation of the culvert extension. The area was dewatered with a submersible pump, with the discharge filtered through a sediment bag and directed back into the downstream channel at a point upstream of the installed turbidity barrier. The above photo, taken on October 17, 2019, shows the riprap being removed from the streambed prior to pouring the flowable fill concrete mud mat.

The above photo taken by Princeton Hydro shows the grate being prepared for the installation of the sluice gate valve operating mechanism.

The installation of the sluice gate valve support structure began in November 2019. Princeton Hydro oversaw the process to ensure the installation was being completed according to the design drawings and NJDEP Dam Safety regulations. The above photo taken by Princeton Hydro shows the grate being prepared for the installation of the sluice gate valve operating mechanism.

Photo taken on December 5, 2019 by Princeton Hydro showing the soil erosion mat being installed.

In December 2019, the team completed a topsoil application, seeding, and soil erosion matting installation to all disturbed areas of the site. All areas disturbed by construction activities (approximately 6,400 square feet) were graded to pre-construction conditions. The topsoil was applied to these areas and hand-raked to re-establish the original grades. The area was then seeded with perennial ryegrass, fertilized, and covered with a soil erosion mat. The above photo, taken on December 5, 2019, shows the soil mat being installed.

Following the final site inspection performed by Princeton Hydro in April 2020, we completed the Ballinger Lake Dam Spillway & Sluice Gate Improvements Closeout Report and presented it to MLC. The report confirmed that the site was considered stabilized in accordance with the approved project plans, the Standards for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control in New Jersey, and all NJDEP Bureau of Dam Safety requirements.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. Click below to read about an emergency repair we completed on the Lake Wauwauskashe Dam. A concerning blockage developed in Lake Wauwauskashe Dam’s spillway and water was backing up at the upstream outlet structure causing a number of issues and potential hazards. Medford Lakes Colony, Princeton Hydro, and other project partners employed innovative solutions that lead to a successful emergency repair.

Creative, Timely Solutions Lead to Successful Dam Repair in Medford Lakes

To learn more about our dam and barrier engineering services, visit bit.ly/DamBarrier.

 

Creative, Timely Solutions Lead to Successful Dam Repair in Medford Lakes

By Kevin Yezdimer, P.E. and Jim Hunt, P.E.

Just 25 miles east of Philadelphia, on the edge of the New Jersey Pinelands region, sits a network of 22 lakes that serve a multitude of recreation purposes for the residents of Medford Lakes. Serving as the guardian to these natural beauties is the Medford Lakes Colony (MLC), a private homeowner association. Homeowners in this community contribute to a “Lake Restoration Fund,” managed by MLC, which is used to maintain the water control structures and monitor the water quality for the bodies of water within the community. This dedicated fund is often used for dredging of the lake beds; repairs and replacement of dams, spillways, and culverts; installation of aerators or fountains to promote long-term benefits to water quality; treatments for weeds and algae; and the maintenance of the coves and beaches.

In mid-April, a concerning blockage developed in Lake Wauwauskashe Dam’s spillway and water was backing up at the upstream outlet structure. The 30-inch wide corrugated metal pipe serves as the dam’s primary (and only) outlet under Wagush Trail, a neighborhood road connecting Lake Wauwauskashe and Lake Mushkodasa. During the attempt to clear the mass of accumulated woody-debris via vacuum truck extraction, a previous repair consisting of a 5’ segment of corrugated plastic pipe had been dislodged and expelled from the downstream end of the spillway. With a compromised dam and flooding in the forecast, MLC acted immediately to handle this emergency dam repair.

Primary Spillway Inlet
Before – Upper portion of the existing corrugated metal pipe was collapsed. After – Pipe was slip-lined and the annulary space was grouted.

 

Given Princeton Hydro’s long-term history of inspecting and maintaining dams and levees in Medford Lakes, MLC contracted our experts to assist. The next day, our team of geotechnical engineers were on-site to investigate the situation. To facilitate the inspection and minimize the stress/pressure on the dam, the upstream and downstream lakes were lowered via an NJDEP Fish and Wildlife Lake Lowering Permit. Additionally, a video inspection of the compromised culvert pipe was conducted. Our geotechnical team observed that the upstream portion of the pipe had collapsed and the structure was experiencing significant seepage (i.e. water flowing through undesirable paths through the dam with the potential for soil piping and stability failure).

Primary Spillway outlet
Before – The existing corrugated metal pipe had corroded and erosion had taken place around the outlet. After – Pipe has been slip-lined and outlet protection (riprap) was installed to stabilize the surrounding soil.

 

With the risk of potential dam failure, Princeton Hydro immediately kicked-off coordination with the NJDEP Bureau of Dam Safety, NJDEP Division of Land Use Regulation, the Pinelands Commission, and the Borough of Medford Lakes. Our licensed engineers promptly developed the repair concept and associated scope of work, detailing our proposed means and methods for the emergency repair.

“We take the potential risk of dam failure very seriously, as safety is one of our core values,” said Kevin Yezdimer, P.E. Director of Geosciences Engineering at Princeton Hydro. “Our geotechnical team prioritized the design, permitting, and implementation of this emergency repair to assure the safety of our client and the community.”

Injection grouting underway (Grout pressure is monitored during placement & the ground surface is monitored for signs of heave).

This included addressing the collapsed pipe; utilizing cementitious injection grouting and compaction grouting to eliminate seepage pathways and stabilize the earthen dam in-place; and provide spillway outfall protection. Through private solicitation, Princeton Hydro selected Compaction Grouting Services, Inc. as the specialty contractor to perform the repair.

A considerable volume of water was required to prepare the grout mixes, and no water sources were available adjacent to the project site. Seeking out solutions, MLC proposed the unique idea of using reclaimed wastewater from the local wastewater treatment plant. Our team confirmed that reuse of the reclaimed wastewater was indeed within the guidelines of the “Technical  Manual for Reclaimed Water for Beneficial Reuse,” and we successfully facilitated approval to use it with NJDEP Division of Water Quality.

Placement of cellular fill into the hollow concrete structure is underway. A lightweight foaming agent was added to the grout mix within the concrete truck. The lightweight grout was then pumped into the structure.

As the construction effort ramped-up, some complications arose. By design, this unique structure allows water flow over the dam’s weirs and drops 8 to 10 feet vertically before travelling under the roadway through the primary spillway. Above the primary spillway is a concrete structure that spans from the upstream lake to the downstream lake and immediately beneath the local roadway. It was discovered that this 50’ long, 6’ deep, concrete structure was hollow and served as a potential seepage pathway. Princeton Hydro proposed to fill-in the hollow structure with a lightweight cellular fill material in order to cut-off the potential seepage pathways, eliminate the 6’ deep hollow chamber beneath the roadway, and facilitate a long-term repair solution.

Implementation of this strategy was further complicated when a utility markout and a subsequent video inspection of the hollow structure confirmed that a gas line passed through the structure on the downstream side of the roadway. Princeton Hydro coordinated with South Jersey Gas to disconnect the gas line in order to minimize risk during construction and eliminate future complications. The neighborhoods on either side of the dam were fed redundantly, so their service was not interrupted during this process.

Overall, the emergency dam repair solution involved an in-situ soil stabilization of an earthen embankment dam via compaction/injection grouting, slip-lining the primary spillway, stabilization of the downstream outlet, and utilization of reclaimed wastewater as a water source for on-site grout batching. The following was completed by our team and contractors during the course of the emergency construction:

  • Slip-lining of the failed 30-inch pipe using a smooth, slightly smaller in diameter high density polyethylene pipe (HDPE) pipe inside of the existing pipe, providing an equal or greater hydraulic capacity as that existing;

  • Grouting of the annular space between the new and old pipes;

  • Non-woven geotextile fabric and riprap outfall protection were placed around the downstream outlet of the culvert pipe to provide scour protection;

  • Compaction and injection grouting was performed in multiple locations. The compaction grout utilized a “low-slump” mix while the injection grout utilized a much more mobile or fluid mix allowing for filling of existing seepage pathways or soil voids, and;

  • Approximately 44 cubic yards of lightweight cellular-grout backfill was utilized to fill in the hollow concrete structure beneath the roadway completing the emergency repair without the need for complete outlet structure or earthen dam reconstruction.

Lowering New Pipe Into Place

Creative, innovative solutions paired with timely coordination and expertise drove the success of the Lake Wauwauskashe Dam emergency repair.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of a dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our dam and barrier engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Kevin M. Yezdimer, P.E., Princeton Hydro’s Geoscience Engineering Director, is a multidisciplinary professional civil engineer who holds degrees in both Geology and Civil Engineering, and has 11 years of progressive and varied work experience as both a design consultant and project owner with Geotechnical & Construction Engineering being his core area of expertise. He has significant experience performing soil and rock core sampling programs, infiltration testing, soils laboratory testing, foundation design (shallow and deep), preparation of construction recommendations,  and overseeing construction review activities (e.g., earthwork, foundations, concrete, masonry, structural steel, roadway, and utility construction).

 

Jim Hunt, P.E., joined Princeton Hydro in 2017 as a Geotechnical Engineer and provides a wide range of engineering services for the firm including: subsurface explorations, bearing capacity and settlement analyses, slope stability analysis, stability analysis of existing structures, preparation of technical deliverables, and cost estimating.