Ethics in Engineering

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works controversies (New Orleans)

Most of New Orleans is below sea level and is prone to flooding. There is a complex system of canals, storm drains, pump systems and levees to alleviate and protect New Orleans from the worst of the flooding. The USACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) were charged with design and construction of the levee system. August of 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and surrounding areas. Hurricane Katrina caused water levels to rise and overtop levees. Over 50 levees were breached causing catastrophic failure of the flood protection system. This was noted as the first total failure of USACE system. This catastrophic failure raised concerns of design flaws and ethical misconduct of the USACE. It was determined that the levee failures were due to erosion of the footings, along with several other design, construction and maintenance flaws of the levees. In an internal report from 1986 the USACE acknowledges the possibility of levee failure due to this same sort of circumstances. On top of the design flaws of the levees themselves there were noted flaws in the storm models used to design the levee system. The storm model was criticized as being too weak, and this was pointed out in advance to USACE by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. This is a critical flaw as the USACE was charged with design a levee system to withstand the strongest storm system. Internal investigations determined that there was no breach of ethics. However criticism of these investigations have included many conflicts of interest and lack of transparency. IPET (Interagency Performance Evaluation Taskforce) was organized to answer questions as to the failure of the flood protection system. 2 of the top 3 IPET leaders work for USACE, and six of the 23 team leaders work for USACE. ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) certified and validated the IPET process. The ASCE was directly funded by...
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