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Wildwood approves funding to assist with local lake investigation

By: Jessica Meszaros

Lake Chesterfield near Pierside Lane [Google Earth photo]

It’s not a new problem, but it’s one Wildwood officials may soon understand better with the hope of a possible solution.

The problem? Persistent leaks and intermittent draining of a 23-acre lake, known as Lake Chesterfield and located within the Harbors at Lake Chesterfield subdivision, which is adjacent to Hwy. 100 and Manchester Road in Wildwood’s Ward 7.

The hope? A geophysical study of the lake conducted by Dr. Neal Anderson from Missouri University of Science and Technology [Missouri S&T].

A measure, passed by Wildwood City Council at its Feb. 12 meeting, authorizes the execution of a contract with Anderson to study the on-going causes leading to persistent leaks and the recent draining of the water feature.  The study by Anderson would be the first of its kind to be conducted on the lake.

“This is someone who has been discussed, notified and had conservations with over the course of several years, but for whatever reason, a contract was never able to be finalized,” Joe Vujnich, director of planning and parks, said.

The study will examine geophysical aspects of the area in an effort to determine how best to restore the water feature to its recommended depth and size. The most efficient repair methods also will be studied and recommended.

“This study will be much more comprehensive and will use more advanced geophysical technology to map the bedrock geology, and really look for where those weaknesses exist,” Vujnich said.

The measure received its first and second reading in one evening due to concerns over timeliness and weather conditions and was passed by the council with a 14-0 vote. Councilmember Greg Stine [Ward 7] abstained from the vote. Councilmember Greg Alexander [Ward 6] was absent.

The issue was brought to the council by the Lake Chesterfield Homeowners Association [LCHOA] citing major concerns with the lake’s drainage capabilities as a Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District retention basin. A total of seven local properties –504 acres and more than 1,000 residents – are served by the basin.

“We’re concerned because that lake is actually a stormwater basin, and it’s not working as it should,” Crystal McCune, LCHOA chair, said. “That water is supposed to filter down and drain into the nearby creeks, and that’s not happening.”

A sinkhole drained Lake Chesterfield in 2004.

The basin has had problems in the past. The man-made structure, built in 1987, developed a major sinkhole in 2004 that drained the lake of millions of gallons of water in just a few days. Since then, the association has spent over $200,000 for ongoing lake repairs, including a $155,000 repair to the belly of the lake two years ago.

“The committee and board at the time did everything they could to repair the sinkhole and revive the lake,” McCune said.

The cost for the geophysical study is $35,000, but the direct budgetary impact of the project to the city would be about $25,727. Funds used for the project will not be sourced from taxpayers, they are covered by a special escrow collected by St. Louis County over 20 years ago. The remaining 26 percent of the cost, about $9,273, will be paid by the LCHOA.

“There has not been a study like this done before, and we think this could have been done before to get an answer to the problem,” subdivision resident George Lindh said.

The selection of Anderson was made by the LCHOA committee. According to Vujnich, Anderson has two contracts – one with the city and another with the LCHOA. According to Vujnich, the LCHOA will drain the lake later this week in preparation for the study, which is tentatively planned around early March.

“These residents have been waiting for something like this to help, and now something is happening,” Councilmember Joe Garritano [Ward 8] said.

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