CSZ Risks in the Pacific Northwest

Communities in from Northern California to British Columbia are at risk of a devastating Cascadia Subduction Zone seismic event.

By understanding how infrastructure will fail and experimenting with alternative, decentralized and waterless systems we can strengthen community resilience before a seismic event and speed recovery after it.

The Oregon Resilience Plan brings new understanding of the impact of earthquakes on sewer systems.

Mark Knudson’s November 2, 2012 presentation at the five-day Resilience NW Conference was an eye opener: “Water Supplies – What You Should Know: The Oregon Resilience Plan For Water & Wastewater Systems” Tualatin Valley Water District’s head engineer co-chaired the water and sanitation committee of Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advocacy Commission, or OSSPAC. Presented to the Oregon Legislature in 2013, the draft plan was announced by The Oregonian in early February. See Executive Summary and complete version of The Oregon Resilience Plan: Reducing Risk and Improving Recovery for the Next Cascadia Earthquake and Tsunami.

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Life without Sewers – Conclusions of The Oregon Resilience Plan

The impact of a Cascadia Subduction Zone quake of 1700 is known

In the mid 1990s, USGS geologists started to work with colleagues in Japan to understand the impact of the 0.9 magnitude quake that occurred on January 26, 1700 off the Oregon coast and generated a well-documented tsunami in Japan. The Orphan Tsunami reads like an adventure story. Authored by Brian F. Atwater in collaboration with Japanese experts, the beautifully illustrated, 144 page book is downloadable free.

The M 9.03 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Northern Japan will leave the city of Sendai without wastewater treatment for three to five years

With earthquakes every 10 to 20 years, Japan has upgraded its piped systems periodically and was considered prepared. Yet the earthquake left 19,000 dead and 325,000 people were still displaced at the end of 2012. Destruction of pipes in areas built on fill was enormous. Sendai was prepared with portables in parks and a temporary system that was up and running in 2-3 months.“Fully restoring water and sewer services to the town will take three to five years,” however, noted the Washington Association of Water and Sewer Districts in “Powerful Japanese Earthquake Provides Lessons for Northwest Water, Sewer Districts Before the Big One Hits.”

Sanitation failure is immediate and long term.

The diagram below from an illustrated Japanese study grasps complex systems interdependency when seismic activity destroys pipes, brings down structures, and disrupts transportation.

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With collapsed bridges and destroyed transportation infrastructure, authorities will be unable to respond.

We need to prepare at the household and neighbourhood level. Says James Roddey, Ultimately, preparedness is a personal responsibility. When we get the big one, nobody is riding in on a white horse to save you (think Katrina); in fact 80% of all rescues in an earthquake are done by your neighbours. The place to start is talking with our neighbours, imagining scenarios in ways that stimulate not fear but creativity and ultimately inspire an sense of community resilience.

Citizens to the rescue!

When the centralised systems of Christchurch failed, activists of New Zealand Permaculture Emergency Response Network introduced residents to a simple toilet design appropriate anywhere for emergencies and long term use. See Compost Toilets: Their Use as an Emergency Response in Christchurch.

Information specific to water and wastewater treatment plants on liquefaction, landslides, location of active faults and details of infrastructure in hazard areas.

Seismic Assessment and Design of Sewers

Webinar on earthquake hazards and their impact on wastewater collection systems by Donald Ballantyne, an engineer who has worked on systems in Vancouver BC, Seattle, Portland and SanFrancisco

“Sewers Float and other aspects of Sewer Performance in Earthquakes“

Illustrations of damaged sewer lines and wastewater treatment plans in a number of US and Japanese cities. Since water pipes must be able to withstand both pressure and soil loading, they are much stronger than sewer pipes which only need to withstand soil loading. While water plants are generally built on competent soils, wastewater treatment plans are often built on fill where there is greater risk of liquefaction.

The Oregon Resilience Plan: Reducing Risk and Improving Recovery for the Next Cascadia Earthquake and Tsunami.
“Calif. quake model looks for ‘big one’ in NW”

Keely Chalmers January 10, 2013 Short (2:20) video. Good for training awareness.

A place to follow the latest research.

Washington Post. January 2, 2012. In the United States, sewer infrastructure is already vulnerable and problems are exacerbated by customer ignorance.

By Charles Duhigg New York Times: March 14, 2010

“Low-Cost Sanitation Solutions A report on progress in Post-Earthquake Haiti”

Andrew Larsen & Fontes Foundation.” FSM 2 Conference Durban, South Africa October 30, 2012. Project funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


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