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Examples of recent dam failures and their implications

Aznalcollar mine
source: Jonny Soljberg (#)

April 25, 1998: the tailings dam at the Aznalcollar mine near Sevilla, Spain failed. This has had BIG societal implications -- the toxic waste has killed many fish and birds and flooded thousands of hectacres of farmland. Who is to blame????
Is it the Swedish-Canadian firm, Boliden Ltd. (#), which operates the mine?
Is it the contractor, Dragados y Construcciones?
Is it the engineering firms, Itecsa and Geocisa, who designed the dam?
Who is responsible for the damage?

This story has made the news a couple times recently. Check out Dam News for coverage.

Also, this page discusses many of the questions:
WISE Uranium Project (#)
They also list other tailings dam failures (#)

February 26, 1999 marks the 27th anniversary of the failure of another tailings dam on Buffalo Creek, West Virginia. 125 peoople were killed and 4000 were left without homes. The dam failure was compounded by the fact that it was waste that was escaping; the waste caught fire and an explosion eventually occured. source: Thomas, Henry. The Engineering of Large Dams

June 5, 1976: the failure in the Teton Dam led to flooding in the cities of Sugar City and Reburg in Idaho. The dam failure killed 14 people and caused over $1 billion in property damages. The dam failed because the bedrock was not strong enough to support the structure. Currently the dam is once again used for hydroelectric power. For more information regarding this disaster, visit The Teton Flood Museum (#)
See some of the devastation of the Teton Dam failure as its wrath is described.

clip courtesy of KIDK TV (#), Idaho

July 17, 1995: a spillway gate of Folsom Dam failed, increasing flows into the American River significantly. There are some great photos of the failure on a UVA website (#). The spillway was repaired and the USBR carried out an investigation (#) of the water flow patterns around the spillway using numerical modelling. No flooding occured as a result of the partial failure, but flooding is still a major concern for this area. It seems that the Folsom Dam may be due for a height increase as an answer to this concern -- check it out in the Dam News!

source: US Bureau of Reclamation (#)

In recent years, dam failure numbers have decreased dramatically with the increased consciousness about dam safety. In 1983, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (#) was formed to to improve dam safety across the country and educate the public on it. Other organizations of this nature include:

United States Committee on Large Dams (#)
International Commission on Large Dams (#)
World Commission on Dams (#)
European Club of ICOLD National Committees (#)
Dam-Reservoir Impact & Info. Archive (#)
Canadian Dam Association (#)
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Office of Hydropower Licensing (#)

Reported dam failures in 1997 was below 10. To see some more numbers on dam failures and incidents, check out the National Performance of Dams Program (#).

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Move on to the Simulation section to crack your own dam and analyze it...

Lives lost due to dam failure Intro to simulation