The May 19, 2020, Failure of Edenville Dam near Midland, Michigan

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Michigan Tech Research Institute; Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


On May 19, 2020, after several days of heavy precipitation, two earth dams failed (Edenville and Sanford) and two other dams were damaged (Secord and Smallwood), north of the town of Midland, MI. The failures resulted in about $100M in damages and the evacuation of about 11,000 people during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to this destructive event, the Geo-Institute Embankment, Dams, and Slopes Technical Committee organized a team with the main objective of capturing perishable data. The Edenville Dam site was of interest because the slope failure was captured on video and occurred prior to the dam being overtopped. Based on our observations, investigation and analyses, two failure mechanisms were considered likely for Edenville Dam: (1) static liquefaction (similar to 2019 failure of Brumadinho Dam in Brazil); and (2) slope instability, where the slide debris which was contractive in nature, expelled pore water in the form of water jets and flowed as it became liquefied along the toe of the dam.

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Geo-Extreme 2021