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World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

Posted March 30, 2016 10:16 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: civil enginering dam flooding grout

There could be an unprecedented engineering disaster in the weeks or months ahead. Mosul Dam in north Iraq is dangerously close to collapsing, years after being identified as fundamentally flawed and in need of major overhaul.

(Edit: NO, this is the correct dam!)

Saddam Hussein constructed the dam during the Iran-Iraq war. It was needed to limit Tigris River flooding downstream in Mosul and Baghdad, Iraq's second- and first-largest cities, respectively.

Saddam constructed it in the middle of the Iran-Iran War to show how prosperous things remained despite the war, but in actuality the dam was built quickly and cheaply.

Before construction engineers suggested heavy foundation grouting and preparation before building the dam as it sat on soluble gypsum. But political pressure meant the dam would proceed without sufficient grouting. Instead a grouting curtain nearly 500 ft. below the dam would compensate for the limited 82 ft. of grouting in the foundation.

Grouting curtains are regularly used to pump a bentonite, cement, water and air slurry below the dam to prevent upward pressure on the underside of the dam from underground seepage. The heavily gypsum bedrock meant that water seepage under the dam was inevitable and considerable maintenance would be needed to keep the dam safe. Insufficient grouting caused the uplift that toppled the St. Francis Dam in California in 1928, which killed 431 people.

Over the years 50,000 tonnes of grout material have been pumped continuously below the Mosul Dam by 300 workers on 24/7 shifts. When American military reached the dam in 2003, engineers found that the dam was dangerously close to failing from underground seepage. Due to the invasion, resources were routed away from the dam's maintenance and workers began quitting after not getting paid. The dam deteriorated to the point where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent $27 million in 2007 for an emergency short-term solution.

Then in 2014, terrorist group ISIS/ISIL captured the dam for several days, but was pushed back. Had the radicals captured the dam for a longer period, it's entirely likely the dam would have already collapsed. Nonetheless, machinery that ISIS captured and workers it drove away have yet to return, meaning that for more than year and a half the dam has not had the equipment and just a 1/10 of the workforce needed to keep it stable..

Instead, millions of individuals live with the worry that the dam burst is imminent, right as spring runoff begins to occur. Estimates believe Mosul would be submerged in 65 ft. of water within four hours, and Baghdad in 15 ft. of water within 48 hours, if the dam were to break. Death toll estimates range from 500,000 to 1.5 million.

The situation is so dire that the U.S. Government issued a second advisory against traveling in the Tigris valley, on top of the general "you probably don't want to go Iraq" blanket advisory.

This blog might be posted in the Oh CR4p! section, but it doesn't have to be. The Iraqi government recently reached an agreement with an Italian firm to fix the dam, hopefully before it's too late.

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#1

Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/30/2016 12:53 PM

Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad actors in that part of the world that would like to help it along.

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Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/30/2016 3:14 PM

Seems like the obvious solution is to let Isis take over Baghdad and Mosul....

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#3

Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/31/2016 4:54 AM

For $27 million the US Core of Engineers could easily have built a structural wall across the narrow gorge 2/3 hundred meters downstream and filled the gap between the dam and the new wall with earth to create a a sort of inside out earth fill dam. That would have created a permanent solution for the same amount (or less) of US taxpayers dollars. Normally earth fill dams have an impermeable core at the center with earth on each side but two impermeable cores with the earth in between works just as well. Even if the existing dam failed at some time in the future you would still have a 600 to 900 foot wide earth fill dam below it to contain the water long enough to avert at disaster. Hindsight is an exact science, but if I can come up with a viable solution 30 seconds after reading the article, why didn't the combined brains of the Core of Engineers find a permanent solution when they had plenty of time to consider the options.

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#4

Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/31/2016 6:32 AM

I am a bit perplexed here: the picture in your blog is of a curved dam, but in Google maps the Mosul dam appears to be straight.

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Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/31/2016 7:17 AM

Any chance it was designed to be flexible? S.M.

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Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/31/2016 9:42 AM

That's why the think it's fixing to give way!

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#7
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Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/31/2016 10:48 AM

Looks like photo #1 in the OP is of the 'spillway gate' (If my guess at the terms is correct) It's there in your second photo, bottom right corner, at the end of the blue 'finger' of lake. The lens used in the OP photo may have been a 'panorama' lens or similar, which, combined with the shooting angle, magnified the apparent curve in the spillway gate.

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Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/31/2016 11:30 AM

Absolutely....

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Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/31/2016 1:17 PM

You'd be correct (+1). I more thorough evaluation (e.g. Google search) proves that is not the correct dam.

I'll update the blog. Thanks!

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#9

Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/31/2016 12:02 PM

It's a Dam fake...

The Dukan Dam was built between 1954 and 1959

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Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/31/2016 1:16 PM

Forgive my pedantry but shouldn't that be "Its a Damn fake..."

The solution I posted earlier is hogwash for the correct dam which is already an earth core dam. Any criticism of the US Corps of Engineers is comprehensively withdrawn with my apologies. I can supply a rope if any of you want to join the mob I'm assembling to lynch the original poster.

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Re: World's Most Dangerous Dam Threatens Up to 1.5 Million

03/31/2016 2:01 PM

I claim literary license...Dam fooled not...

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