I was going to say that friend, environmental engineer extraordinaire and former University of New Mexico colleague Bruce Thomson is one of the smartest engineers I know, but I realized he's one of the smartest people I know. Check out his intelligent, reasoned WaterWired post on the Animas River spill.
Here is a preliminary analysis Bruce sent me around noon on 10 February:
He was on top of things, as usual.
To followers of your blogs I strongly recommend that they read The Dam by Robert Byrne, Atheneum, NY (1981). It's a short novel (244 pages) about a young engineer who recognizes there's a potential failure mode for a large earth filled dam and his efforts to have this flaw recognized and dealt with before the dam fails. It's got a very nice description of earth filled dams, their design, construction, and potential vulnerabilities, and ultimately the series of events leading up to and following failure. It also describes the challenges that a young engineer faces in getting the attention and subsequent action from supervisors, managers, and politicians. I have used the book in my engineering ethics class as it addresses situations that engineers are likely to encounter, though usually not with such dire consequences. The biography of Byrne sounds like he's lived an interesting life and "has worked as a railroad section hand, cabdriver, pool hustler, civil engineer, and trade journal editor." Good book. Easy read. VERY relevant.
Bruce added (via John Fleck):
I read the book again last night. It’s a fictional earthfill dam, highest in the country, in Sutter county upstream from Suttonville, 100 miles NE of Sacramento. It is clearly based on the Oroville dam and lake, though in this book it’s the dam that fails not the spillways.
It's on my list!
"Regardless of alternative facts, fake news or scientific censorship, nature tells the truth." - Cynthia Barnett