Coakley files two dam lawsuits

Nick Rees Apr. 7, 2010, 10:00am


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed two lawsuits against the private owners of dams in Pittsfield and Plympton.

The lawsuits allege failure to comply with state orders requiring the repair of dams that are structurally unsafe and hazardous.

"Recent heavy rains have served as a reminder of how important it is to maintain the integrity of dams throughout the Commonwealth in order to keep our communities safe and protect homes and businesses," Coakley said.

"Unfortunately, the state has had to step in and expend state resources several times to address safety risks at these dams, when the responsibility clearly resides with the private owners of these structures.

"Years of inaction on behalf of these private dam owners is unacceptable and has forced the state to file these lawsuits to ensure the safety of those who live near the dams."

Coakley's lawsuits ask the courts to immediately order the defendants to take certain steps to address the risk posed by the structurally unsafe dams.

The first lawsuit names J. Barrett Hollister, the owner of the Bel Air Dam in Pittsfield. The Bel Air Dam is categorized as carrying high hazard potential. The suit asks the court for a preliminary injunction to require Hollister take immediate steps to address safety concerns.

Coakley's complaint asserts that the Bel Air Dam has been deemed unsafe by the state since 2002 and a high hazard since 2005. Hollister, the complaint alleges, has repeatedly failed to comply with Department of Conservation and Recreation orders to repair the dam and address safety issues.

The other lawsuit was filed against Roger W. O'Neil, Jr., the registered owner of Dennett's Pond Dam in Plympton. Dennett's Pond Dam has been categorized as carrying significant hazard potential. The suit asks the court for a preliminary injunction to require immediate steps be taken by the owner to address safety concerns.

Coakley's claims against O'Neil allege that the Dennett's Pond Dam was deemed unsafe and a public safety hazard by the state and that O'Neil failed to comply with a march 2007 containing numerous requirements.

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