Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Don, the Contractor, was right

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, being printed again in New Orleans on Saturday the 15th, reported that engineer Robert Bea of Cal Berkeley and also of the National Science Foundation, says that the walls which failed on the 17th Street Canal and the London Avenue Canal did so because beneath their foundations was a layer of peat. This layer was weak. Bea was asked by the newspaper to interpret findings on a Corps of Engineer website, which the Corps was not willing to interpret. The findings were from borings into the soil beneath the walls.

Bea reckons that the extraordinarily weak peat allowed the walls to slide sideways under pressure, because the base of the walls' sheet pilings was either above on in the layer of peat.

In one boring, the sheer strength of the soil at 27 feet down is just one tenth of the strength just 8 feet further down. At 70 feet the sheer strength is 0.6 tons per square foot, 30 times the value at 27 feet.

It seems unlikely that the peat layer, giving its size laterally and vertically, could have been missed by pre-construction borings.

Did the contractor know the peat was there? Did the Corps of Engineers know?

If so, who reasoned that it would not matter? I do not know.


Rick Ballard said...

Here is the link to the Picayune piece. I don't think it's quite as cut and dried as Prof. Beas is quoted as making it sound. I'll wait for the ASE findings. It would be helpful to know the actual depth of the canal. "Peat at 25-28 feet" is pretty meaningless without a "from" to go with it.

David Thomson said...

“Did the contractor know the peat was there? Did the Corps of Engineers know?
If so, who reasoned that it would not matter?”

My knowledge of engineering and construction work is next to nil. I can only offer a guess---premised almost solely on our knowledge concerning New Orleans’ corrupt political culture. It is my guess that the contractor is well connected with political establishment. Corners were cut and maybe even some outright lying occurred.

Why do I sense that the MSM are relatively uninterested in pursuing the answer to these questions? Might they be more interested if this disaster could be blamed on Republicans?

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Put it on your car: The Corps Lied and People Died!