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A young engineer, molasses, and failed sand drains

June 1st, 2010 / By: / From Our Readers

Editor’s Note: The October 2009 issue included lots of geosynthetics history, including this article by Bob Koerner.

Comment: “A young engineer, molasses, and failed sand drains”

From: Peter Davies, Kaytech South Africa
Posted: Nov. 1, 2009

Hi Bob and thank you for a thought-provoking lesson. I am forwarding it to a number of acquaintances in the geotechnical field in South Africa.

In my younger days (I’m 63 now!), I worked for around 10 years at Frankipile, and I spent many an hour down pile shafts being taught the dangers of smear by that doyen of geotechnics in SA, the late Prof. Jere Jennings who studied at MIT under Karl Terzaghi.

With that background, and the fact the company I now work for manufactures band drains among other geosynthetics, I think that your belief that smear may have caused the failure of the sand piles at Wilmington is well-founded. It seems incredible that a thin layer of smear could cause such a resistance to flow, but it’s quite possible.

Thanks again. This sort of practical experience is invaluable and it is good that Geosynthetics is bringing it to a wider global audience.

Best Regards.

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