Back Creek flowed through the lower reservoir of the Bath County Project. The project included many facilities and design features to protect the water quality and flows of the creek. Many residents downstream of the project used the water for domestic and farm purposes. Upstream from the project we built a series of large settling ponds to treat water being discharged from the construction activities. The pods and discharges into the creek were monitored daily. Chemical flocculants were injected into the pumped water entering the ponds. Heavy solids were easily settled out of the pumped water, but dissolved solids and contaminates required the flocculants to make them drop out into the ponds. If the water was over treated it would be dead because everything including much of the oxygen had been removed. Under treatment allowed contaminants into the creek. It was a constant balancing act.
We received a call from a farmer over a mile from the project complaining about his cows drinking red water out of the creek. When leaving the job I checked the creek and it looked fine. The farmer still had off colored water running through his property. The hoof prints from his cows were filled with bright red water along the creek edges. I left the farmer and drove downstream. The red was more prominent as I drove and more calls were being made to the project. We later found a pipefitter crew was chasing a leak in a water line on the project. When they couldn’t find the leak they put red dye in the pipe. They went to lunch, the dye found it’s way from the leak to the creek, and turned the creek red. Two hours later the pipe fitters were still trying to find signs of their dye which went down the creek. The dye was non toxic, but got a lot of attention.
Our rock crushing facilities and batch plant were at the lower end of the project. Ponds were built across the creek to process their recirculating water system and discharges into the creek. The ponds were connected by 18 inch culvert pipes buried in the embankment between the ponds. The pipes were ten feet underground and each had a ninety degree elbow and riser pipe at the inlet. The depth of each pond was controlled by the riser pipe. Each pond had a small concrete spillway in case the culvert pipe got plugged. Recent storms had blown branches and debris into our upper pond and they plugged the elbow at the bottom of the riser pipe. Myself, Randy Pickering, and his crew had no luck removing the plug. The only thing to do was remove the riser pipe and elbow 10 feet underwater. When the crane pulled the elbow off the ten feet of water exiting the top pond flooded through all the lower ponds. Learning from the pipefitters, we got out of there in case the ponds washed out and went downstream from the surge. After an hour we were brave enough to go look. The ponds survived. We repaired the riser and elbow.
The farmer lived with the red dye……….and never saw the surge from the ponds.