Location

Chicago, Illinois

Session Start Date

4-29-2013

Session End Date

5-4-2013

Abstract

The red mud reservoir failure in Ajka, Hungary has claimed 10 lives and cost millions of dollars in damages. Immediately after emergency measures investigations started to shed light on causes and circumstances. The authors performed an extensive desktop study of about 20 thousand pages reaching back to the 1970s, when the facility has been designed. Beside this study the dam and its area have gone through series of site investigations, from drilling to CPTu testing and laboratory testing. The information so collected resulted in the following conclusion. Contributing factors to this substantial dam failure included poor siting of the facility, partly on top of a diverted creek bed and marshy area; design faults when calculating safety reserves, as well as basic stability at designed maximum reservoir load. Construction technology has not been controlled; its foundation was built unprofessionally. The negligence of regulators at licensing, at commissioning, as well as at the periodic safety reviews. There was no geotechnical monitoring plan, it was considered to be unnecessary. External negative factors further converged with these deficiencies. The frequency of smaller earthquakes was significantly higher in the accident-preceding year than during the previous ten years. Precipitation was unusual, its level during the accident-preceding half year reached an incidence frequency of 3000 years! Heightened groundwater level saturated the clay base surface of the reservoir already weakened by cat-ion exchanges due to high alkalinity of red mud – on sloping surface. The slurry walls built around the reservoir, from environmental protection purpose, have intensified this process. Strong wind gusts shifting direction pressured the dam walls during the day of accident.

Department(s)

Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Appears In

International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering

Meeting Name

Seventh Conference

Publisher

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Publication Date

4-29-2013

Document Version

Final Version

Rights

© 2013 Missouri University of Science and Technology, All rights reserved.

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

File Type

text

Language

English

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Apr 29th, 12:00 AM May 4th, 12:00 AM

Causes and Circumstances of Red Mud Reservoir Dam Failure In 2010 at MAL Zrt Factory Site in Ajka, Hungary

Chicago, Illinois

The red mud reservoir failure in Ajka, Hungary has claimed 10 lives and cost millions of dollars in damages. Immediately after emergency measures investigations started to shed light on causes and circumstances. The authors performed an extensive desktop study of about 20 thousand pages reaching back to the 1970s, when the facility has been designed. Beside this study the dam and its area have gone through series of site investigations, from drilling to CPTu testing and laboratory testing. The information so collected resulted in the following conclusion. Contributing factors to this substantial dam failure included poor siting of the facility, partly on top of a diverted creek bed and marshy area; design faults when calculating safety reserves, as well as basic stability at designed maximum reservoir load. Construction technology has not been controlled; its foundation was built unprofessionally. The negligence of regulators at licensing, at commissioning, as well as at the periodic safety reviews. There was no geotechnical monitoring plan, it was considered to be unnecessary. External negative factors further converged with these deficiencies. The frequency of smaller earthquakes was significantly higher in the accident-preceding year than during the previous ten years. Precipitation was unusual, its level during the accident-preceding half year reached an incidence frequency of 3000 years! Heightened groundwater level saturated the clay base surface of the reservoir already weakened by cat-ion exchanges due to high alkalinity of red mud – on sloping surface. The slurry walls built around the reservoir, from environmental protection purpose, have intensified this process. Strong wind gusts shifting direction pressured the dam walls during the day of accident.