In late January, the American Society of Civil Engineers sent three teams to the tsunami disaster zone to conduct damage assessments. This is their third report from the field, the first from Thailand.

FEB. 1--We just completed our first day in the field. We visited the Patong wastewater treatment and pumping station. The tsunami flooded the sewage system, allowing salt water to get into the activated sludge treatment plant. This caused the system to fail and required additional activated sludge and "food" to get the plant in gear. Six of thirteen pump stations were flooded and out of service – most due to electrical control panel flooding, though others are clogged with sand. It will be two or three months before they get the funds to buy replacement parts (which are not available in Thailand). In the meantime, raw sewage is flowing into the bay.

The tidal surge also destroyed some protective walls along coastal roads, causing severe erosion of the highways. Temporary repairs have been made using gravel.

The navy base near Khao Lak was severely flooded by the tsunami. Forty to fifty reinforced concrete power poles were knocked over by the wave surge carrying debris. They were repaired and replaced within one week. A water line crossing a drainage channel was also broken and replaced within one week. The main water treatment plant was flooded, causing damage to the control panels and a number of pumps. These were all replaced with temporary pumps and controls within two weeks. The power generation station for the ships on the dock – 220 to 380 volts – was severely damaged, its control panels knocked over and swept into the bay. It is not functional to this day.

For the most part, businesses and lives are getting back to normal in most of the coastal areas. It will be a few months until all repairs are made.

Editor's note: Team leader Curtis Edwards is a licensed professional engineer with the San Diego, Calif.-based firm Pountney Psomas