The area is approximately 300-m from the Rhine River, and groundwater is very shallow. As noted in another NCE article, the contractor constructed 15 dewatering wells when only 4 were approved. Additionally, the pumping rate being used was 750 m^3/hr, or nearly double the 450 m^3/hr it was pumping in December of 2008. Clearly the groundwater is one component of the failure, but it does not appear that there is sufficient evidence to say exactly what role of the groundwater was or if the shoring walls did in fact fail and lead to the collapse of the Cologne historical archives and the deaths of two people.
WSDOT released an update on February 7 with some conclusions regarding the blockage that has stopped the Alaska Way Viaduct Tunnel Boring Machine, Bertha’s progress since December 6. Now they don’t think it was necessarily the well casing after all.
They cite two factors that contributed to the blockage. First, the cutterhead was clogged with material. You can see an cool short video of a worker unclogging the cutterhead. Not terribly dramatic, but still cool. The second factor was increased temperatures inside the equipment. STP discovered damage to a seal that protects the machine’s main bearing. They are still determining how the repairs will be done.
If you want to follow the chronology of this issue, read below for summaries and links to previous updates from WSDOT. And Check out the videos too! [Source: WSDOT]