Two of the four tanks meant to hold water to irrigate the athletic fields at the new high school are failing, the Fluvanna County School Board was told Wednesday night.

The high school construction team, including the architectural and engineering firms as well as the contractors, told the board that the “tank materials and the ground are being extracted for testing to determine the cause of the failures,’’ according to a press release from Barbara Gibbons, chairwoman of the school board. The tanks are used to collect storm water.

Don Hickland of Neilson Construction told the school board the systems were designed and manufactured in Australia. However, Australia sub-contracted the manufacturing to Chile and Indonesia. The system is made up of polymer panels that snap together, much like a stack of milk crates. These "rain harvesting" systems are 120 feet by 100 feet and two to four feet high. The systems are installed underground on top of a concrete slab and covered by fill.

“Work on the tanks has ceased until a determination has been made as to the cause of the failures,’’ according to the press release. “The Fluvanna County School Board was assured that these tanks have been installed by the general contractor in other Virginia locations and there has never been a failure. The interested parties have given assurances to the board that they will get to the root cause of the failures and keep the board informed.’’

The architect will provide recommendations to the school board as to how to proceed with the water retention system once the cause of the failure has been determined. The construction team has been scheduled to give a public update at the next regularly scheduled board meeting on August 11.

The contract calls for the school board to take possession of the new high school building in April of 2012. At this point, the construction is proceeding ahead of schedule and the tank failures are not expected to cause a delay in the completion of the project, according to the press release. – Page H. Gifford.

Irrigation Tanks at New High School. Photo by David Stemple.Photo by David Stemple.