Officials And Property Owner Believe Age And Climate Caused Dam To Break

Swell after swell of rushing water surged through the spillway and, finally, it was just too much for the dam at Pure Oil Lake.  For some the sight was unbelievable.

"A friend of mine drove by and said he was going to bring his mother down here and said, 'Pure Oil Lake was breaking.'  I said, 'you've got to be kidding'," said Danny Walker, who witnessed the dam break.

Now, the decades old lake, once billions of gallons and 350 acres full, is slowly making its way downstream.

"Everything's back to normal," said Benny Riley.  "We just don't have any water in the lake any more ... just a hole in the dam."

Riley said he owns the property where the dam and spillway sit, along with 42 acres of now drying lake bed.  He said too much rain and the age of the dam helped weakened the structure.

"We gotta just repair it," he said.

"The further, north part of the spillway of the dam has pretty much eroded away," said Chuck Allen, Van Zandt County Fire Marshal.

It was a situation that could have been much worse.

"We dodged an extreme bullet with this situation where, had we had that massive spillway dam failure, we would have been looking at even bigger problems."

Allen said the break was probably the result of droughts, followed by an extremely wet spring and summer--conditions which may have shifted the soil beneath the dam.  As the lake twists and flows east, some are hoping for a quick return to normal.

"We know it's going to be a process and a time consuming ordeal, but we will fix this dam and get the lake back," said Riley.

We spoke with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Wednesday.  It said a representative will be visiting Pure Oil Lake to do a full inspection to figure out exactly what it will take to repair the dam.

Layron Livingston, Reporting.