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Engineering Ethics Case Study: The Taum Sauk Reservoir Failure (5 credit hours/5 HSW Hours)
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 complete evacuation of the 4,350 acre-ft upper reservoir occurred within about 25 minutes. This 5 hour course provides instruction in engineering ethics through a case study of the Taum Sauk failure.  The interaction between decisions made in the original design process in the 1960s and errors made in installing new water-level control instrumentation in 2004 is discussed in detail.
Mark Rossow
This course teaches the following specific knowledge and skills:
  • Students will understand that ethical behavior requires taking greatly increased precautions if the risk of catastrophic failure is found to have increased;
  • Students will understand that ethical behavior requires assuming responsibility for ensuring that safety is maintained, when an existing project is modified;
  • Students will learn that ethical behavior requires recognizing one’s own limitations of technical expertise and accordingly seeking guidance from knowledgeable personnel, when applying one’s expertise to a narrowly focused modification of a large complex project, the general theory and practice of which are not included in one’s expertise;
  • Students will know that ethical behavior requires determining how overall safety of a large complex project can be affected by individual tasks, often seemingly small;
  • Students will understand that ethical behavior requires being familiar with the assumptions used in the original design of a complex project and how safety will be affected by proposed modifications in the project;
  • Students will learn the principle that ethical behavior requires documenting the reasoning behind technical decision making so that mistakes can be identified and avoided in the future;
  • Students will learn the theory, construction, and maintenance of rockfill dams; and
  • Students will understand the techniques for monitoring and failure modes of rockfill dams.

Titan Continuing Education, Inc. | 1519 Dale Mabry Hwy, Ste 201 Lutz, FL 33548 | Toll Free: 800.960.8858 | Email: info@TitanCE.com .