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Engineering Ethics Case Study: The Taum Sauk Reservoir Failure

Mark P. Rossow, Ph.D, PE Retired

In the morning of December 14th, 2005, the upper reservoir of the Taum Sauk Pumped Storage Project near Lesterville, Missouri, USA, was overtopped during the final pumping cycle. Overtopping of the 10 ft high parapet wall and subsequent failure of the rockfill embankment formed a breach about 720 feet wide at the top of the rockfill dam and 430 feet at the base. The breach widened quickly, and the 4,350 acre-ft reservoir emptied in about 25 minutes. This course provides instruction in engineering ethics through a case study of the Taum Sauk failure. Managementís failure to give adequate consideration to dam safety considerations stemming from decisions made in the original design process in the 1960s and errors made in installing and maintaining new water-level control instrumentation in 2004 is described in detail.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.