1000s of Run-Down US Dams Would Kill People If They Failed, Study Finds

“More than 15,000 dams in the US would likely kill people if they failed, and at least 2,300 of them are in poor or unsatisfactory condition, according to recent data from the federal government’s National Inventory of Dams.

The country’s neglected and deteriorating dam infrastructure is coming to light as heavy rains and two dam failures in Michigan have caused catastrophic flooding and forced thousands to evacuate their homes in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

The problem will only become more serious as the climate crisis disrupts rain patterns, experts warn.

The average age of a US dam is 57 years, and many – like the Michigan dams – were built in the early 20th century, when states had not yet set safety standards. US dams received a “D” rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers in its most recent review in 2017.”

Emily Holden reports for the Guardian May 23, 2020.