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Engineering Ethics Case Study: The Taum Sauk Reservoir Failure

Engineering Ethics Case Study: The Taum Sauk Reservoir Failure
Course Highlights

This online engineering PDH course provides instruction in engineering ethics through a case study of the Taum Sauk failure.  The interaction between decisions made in the original design process in the 1960s and errors made in installing new water-level control instrumentation in 2004 is discussed in detail.


In the morning of December 14th, 2005, the upper reservoir of the Taum Sauk Pumped Storage Project near Lesterville, Missouri, USA, was overtopped during the final pumping cycle.  Overtopping of the 10 ft high parapet wall and subsequent failure of the rockfill embankment formed a breach about 720 feet wide at the top of the rockfill dam and 430 feet at the base.  The breach widened quickly, and complete evacuation of the 4,350 acre-ft upper reservoir occurred within about 25 minutes.


This 5 PDH online course is intended for civil, mechanical, and electrical engineers concerned with issues of ethics and responsible behavior in the management of complex projects in which safety and the avoidance of catastrophic failure are of concern.

Learning Objectives

This PE continuing education course is intended to provide you with the following specific knowledge and skills:

  • Understanding that ethical behavior requires taking greatly increased precautions if the risk of catastrophic failure is found to have increased
  • Understanding that ethical behavior requires assuming responsibility for ensuring that safety is maintained, when an existing project is modified
  • Understanding that ethical behavior requires recognizing one's own limitations of technical expertise and accordingly seeking guidance from knowledgeable personnel, when applying one's expertise to a narrowly focused modification of a large complex project, the general theory and practice of which are not included in one's expertise
  • Understanding that ethical behavior requires determining how overall safety of a large complex project can be affected by individual tasks, often seemingly small
  • Understanding that ethical behavior requires being familiar with the assumptions used in the original design of a complex project and how safety will be affected by proposed modifications in the project
  • Understanding that ethical behavior requires documenting the reasoning behind technical decision making so that mistakes can be identified and avoided in the future
  • Learning about the theory, construction, and maintenance of rockfill dams
  • Learning about the monitoring and failure modes of rockfill dams
Course Document

In this professional engineering CEU course, you need to review the course document which is based on FERC Report No. P-2277, "Taum Sauk Upper Dam Breach, Technical Reasons for the Breach of December 14, 2005 ", prepared by the FERC Independent Panel of Consultants, May 24, 2006.

To view, print and study the course document, please click on the following link(s):
Engineering Ethics Case Study: The Taum Sauk Reservoir Failure (5.5 MB)
Course Quiz
Once you complete your course review, you need to take a multiple-choice quiz consisting of thirty (30) questions to earn 5 PDH credits. The quiz will be based on this FERC Report.
The minimum passing score is 70%. There is no time limit on the quiz, and you can take it multiple times until you pass at no additional cost.
Certificate of Completion

Upon successful completion of the quiz, print your Certificate of Completion instantly. (Note: if you are paying by check or money order, you will be able to print it after we receive your payment.) For your convenience, we will also email it to you. Please note that you can log in to your account at any time to access and print your Certificate of Completion.

To buy the course and take the quiz, please click on: