April 2001

Home | Past PEGGs | Ad Rates | Back to April Index | Contact

Readers' Forum

Let's hear from you....

The PEGG welcomes letters as an avenue for members to express opinions and concerns on issues or topics of interest to the professions. Share your experiences with other members.

Just mail: (1500 Scotia One, 10060 Jasper Avenue NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 4A2_ e-mail:, or fax (780) 4250-1722) your letters to the editor, signed with your name and address.

Of course, we can't undertake to publish all letters received and can't run letters concerning specific registration matters before any APEGGA regulatory body. Do try and keep your letters to 300 words or less.

Find Better Sources Than Mainstream Media

Re: The second opinion article by Ken Allen, P.Geoph., Sensible Global Warming Policy Is What We Need, The PEGG, March 2001. Unlike Mr. Allen, I can offer no strong technical opinion either way respecting climate change. He's apparently in a position to back his position with solid argument.

I suggest that he do that, and refrain from using any mainstream media for source information. To expect accurate data, complete information and valid opinion distilled through a newspaper is very possibly dangerous and most certainly naive.
For me, it destroys the credibility of Mr. Allen's article, regardless of anything else useful he might have to add to this debate.

Edward Sharpe, P. Eng.

Editor's Note: Mr. Allen's first article was published back in July, and many comments followed. We ran Mr. Allen's response last month. The debate stemming from Mr. Allen's opinion pieces is now closed, as far as the pages of The PEGG are concerned. The above letter marks the final installment.

Verbal Abuse Not Uncommon
It is excellent to see that an engineer has been reprimanded for unprofessional conduct regarding behaviour towards an employee (Disciplinary Action, The PEGG, March 2001). Unfortunately, most cases are not reported.

One reason for this is that many young engineers are not aware that there are actions that they can take against a manager who uses verbal abuse. Such abuse will hinder the victim's performance and possibly destroy his or her self-esteem. The second reason is that it's usually the victim's word against the manager's, and the manager will not likely admit to any unprofessional conduct.

I have suffered at the hands of an abusive manager, and so have many other employees. To young engineers who are having severe problems of this nature with management, my advice is:

1. Any one-on-one meetings with the manager, take a tape recorder with you.
2. Anything the manager says or does that may be inappropriate or unprofessional, write it down on a notepad with the date.
3. Talk to another Professional Engineer who is a manager and ask for advice on how to handle the situation. It doesn't have to be an engineer with the same company.
4. Take legal action only when you have exhausted the alternatives.
5. Most importantly, always remain calm and never raise your voice.

Kent Pritchett, E.I.T.

Reader Digs Up More Dirt On Edmonton's Rat Hole

Re: Edmonton Becomes a Rat Hole Free Zone, The PEGG, February 2001. I was very pleased to read the article on the Edmonton Rat Hole and note that it was described as an "engineering marvel." My father, Prof. I.F. Morrison, did the structural design for the project and I have had access to his records.

Controversy concerning this structure began long before the tenders were received. The railway engineers did not want an arch structure and did everything they could to foster a more conventional design. As indicated, clearance was one of the most serious problems the designers had to overcome.

My father's notes do not make reference to a sump pump of any sort, but seem more concerned with the elevation of the nearest storm sewer. The depth of fill above the structure was also of great concern to the railway and these two factors dictated the clearance.

The first design was for a single-hinged arch for each of the two tunnels, but the railway objected that it would be damaged by settlement. Their preference was for steel beams encased in concrete with two and one half feet of fill above the structure. Such a design would have a clearance of 14 feet, considerably less than at the centreline of the arch, and allow for a 22-foot roadway and one six-foot sidewalk. The railway also insisted that the design allow for full impact load and this was to be included on the foundation loading.

There was considerable controversy over the allowable bearing pressure for the foundations. The railway engineers quoted several well known textbooks as saying that the maximum allowable pressure on a stiff gray clay should be no more than 4,000 pounds per square foot. My father believed this was too low and suggested that a design load of 6,000 p.s.f. was more appropriate. After several months of letter writing, he performed a load bearing test in which a 17-inch square plate (two square feet) was loaded to 9,240 lb. with a maximum deflection of 0.02 feet (approximately one quarter inch).

In the end, the three-hinged arch was chosen and the bearing pressure, including full impact load, was 5,920 p.s.f. The depth of fill above the arch was two feet. My father concluded that "any slight settlement of the foundation, should it even occur, will not alter the stresses, nor will it impair the safety of the structure in any way." At $190,105, the city's estimated cost for construction was considerable less than for the railway's steel-and-concrete alternative, so the arch design won the day. The average of the seven tenders received was $189,169.
The art of compromise was part of engineering even in those days.

H. L. Morrison, P.Eng.

Rank and File Need Representation

Re: Editor's Note, Readers' Forum, The PEGG, February 2001. I think you missed the point of my comments. My job gives me the chance to meet fellow members working in different areas and for different employers.

In the course of conversation, I discuss the state of our profession. Many have views similar to the one I wrote about in the letter that accompanied your remarks, APEGGA Experience And A Title Not Necessary for Council. A sense that their professional body is irrelevant, alienation and sometimes even anger are common.

The anger comes out of policies being dictated by "a few wise men" who seem out of touch with members. The members want the organization to reflect their views and wishes -- not some "public good" as presented by corporate professionals. Remember, the corporate good may not really be the public good.

I rarely find anyone who supports council's actions and policies. Usually, those who do are vice-presidents or some such management types. People out of touch with the rank and file.
I merely state the members, who I have talked with, wish for open and fair elections, during which issues are debated and voted on. Elections are about views and directions. A self-governing organization should have the ability to openly discuss and choose options.

To answer your challenge, sure, I'll run for office. Put me down for president. That sure would spook the establishment. I doubt they would allow it, even though the rules do. An outsider at that post sure would be a change.

So Council will have to do. But change will still not happen. That's because the membership still can't vote for change. Council allows candidates to hide their views. So, who are we to vote for?

Dave Kachorowski, P.Eng.

Home | Past PEGGs | Contact | Ad Rates | Back to April Index