Location

Chicago, Illinois

Date

01 May 2013, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Abstract

The 1911 sliding failure of Austin Dam in Potter County, Pennsylvania presents an interesting case history combining an engineering failure with ethical, social legal and regulatory issues. The concrete gravity dam, completed in December 1909, was plagued by poor design and construction, influenced greatly by the owner pressuring the designer to keep costs low. Seepage through the foundation, an inadequate shear key, and cracking of the cyclopean concrete, all contributed to the eventual catastrophic failure that destroyed the towns of Austin and Costello, claiming at least 78 lives. As a case history, the failure of Austin Dam has applicability to a number of ABET program outcomes. The obvious sliding failure of the dam due to uplift pressures and weakened foundation rock directly addresses certain technical program outcomes. The economic aspects of the dam’s design and construction, the social issues involving relief efforts, the contemporary national media coverage, as well as the ethical and legal aspects of the dam’s failure address other program outcomes. Various aspect of the failure of Austin Dam have been documented in several recent papers, providing a comprehensive geotechnical case history that can be appropriately incorporated into the undergraduate civil engineering curriculum

Department(s)

Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Meeting Name

7th Conference of the International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering

Publisher

Missouri University of Science and Technology

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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Using the 1911 Austin Dam Failure Case History in Undergraduate Teaching

Chicago, Illinois

The 1911 sliding failure of Austin Dam in Potter County, Pennsylvania presents an interesting case history combining an engineering failure with ethical, social legal and regulatory issues. The concrete gravity dam, completed in December 1909, was plagued by poor design and construction, influenced greatly by the owner pressuring the designer to keep costs low. Seepage through the foundation, an inadequate shear key, and cracking of the cyclopean concrete, all contributed to the eventual catastrophic failure that destroyed the towns of Austin and Costello, claiming at least 78 lives. As a case history, the failure of Austin Dam has applicability to a number of ABET program outcomes. The obvious sliding failure of the dam due to uplift pressures and weakened foundation rock directly addresses certain technical program outcomes. The economic aspects of the dam’s design and construction, the social issues involving relief efforts, the contemporary national media coverage, as well as the ethical and legal aspects of the dam’s failure address other program outcomes. Various aspect of the failure of Austin Dam have been documented in several recent papers, providing a comprehensive geotechnical case history that can be appropriately incorporated into the undergraduate civil engineering curriculum