Reading will drain Bernhart Dam

·2 min read

Nov. 27—Reading has found the solution to the troubled Bernhart Dam. It will be drained.

Reading was told in 2016 by the state Department of Environmental Protection that it needed to remove or replace the structure after the dam was labeled high-risk.

"Bernhart Dam remains in poor condition and should be rehabilitated or breached," the report stated.

City Council voted Monday night to award Flyway Construction of Mount Joy, Lancaster County, the contract to breach the dam for $89,400. Eight bids were received, officials said.

Council said very little about the contract, and there was no discussion of when the work might begin.

"Obviously, something we have been waiting on for a long time," Council President Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. said.

The plan calls for a phased breaching of the dam at the primary spillway in 1-foot increments.

Supplemental breaching of the dam will not occur until the water has settled, and the contractor must work at the direction of the engineer on-site to minimize any disturbances to the water.

All the cut masonry stone will be salvaged and reused by the city.

The contractor will also install a rock construction entrance, remove and salvage the pedestrian bridge over the primary spillway and remove the chain-link fence at the spillway.

Council found out this year that its insurance company would not insure the dam after this year.

The dam is in Muhlenberg Township but owned by the city.

Once the city lowers the water level in the dam, there will be another problem.

Bernhart Park, where the dam is located, is contaminated with lead from the former Exide Technologies plant.

In phase two of the project, the city would work with partners such as Berks County and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the site, Acting Public Works Director Stan Rugis previously said.

The next phase would be remediation and further discussion with the DEP and EPA, he said.