Cliffside, NC — On June 22, 2022, a breach in the old Cliffside Cone Mills Dam was caused by a malfunctioning water release gate. This resulted in a public safety hazard, significant sediment pollution, and environmental harm.
Statement from David Caldwell, MountainTrue’s Broad Riverkeeper:
“MountainTrue would like to thank the Department of Environmental Quality, Rutherford County Emergency Services, the Army Corps of Engineers and the other agencies for their quick response to a dam breach at the Cliffside Cone Mills Dam. This unfortunate occurrence underscores the need to retire and remove aging dams and other aquatic barriers that pose significant risks to public safety and the health of our environment.”
The Cliffside Cone Mills Dam, which was purchased by Navitas Utility Corporation in May, is approximately 90 years old and in disrepair. According to company officials, on June 22, while the onsite crew was releasing water to relieve pressure on the main gate, one of the dam’s smaller gates blew out and was unable to be closed. This resulted in the entire flow of the Second Broad River pressing through a 6’ x 8’ opening in the dam. Water and sediment continue to rush through the broken gate, causing potential hazards from fast-flowing water, sediment, debris and other potential contaminants.
Rutherford County Emergency Services and the Army Corps of Engineers are aware of the situation. According to officials, the NC Department of Environmental Quality has issued a notice of Violation to Navitas Utility Corporation. For our part, MountainTrue is documenting the environmental and water quality impacts and collecting water quality samples. We will share our results with regulatory agencies and the public as soon as possible.