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Report: Coating Error Snags FAA Tower

Monday, August 11, 2014

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An incorrectly installed antifungal coating will delay "by at least a year" the opening of a new $99 million tower at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

The application error at the Federal Aviation Administration facility could cost millions of dollars to repair, the newspaper reported in a copyrighted investigative article published Thursday (Aug. 7) evening.

McCarran construction
Walsh Construction

The project began in June 2011, and the coating problem was discovered in January,  the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Repairs could take more than a year.

The tower project is under contract to Chicago-based Walsh Construction and Archer Western Contractors. A woman at the company's corporate headquarters said Friday (Aug. 8) that the company was unavailable for comment.

Coating 'Ineffective'

The newspaper reported that a "chemical coating to prevent the spread of toxic fungus was improperly applied and is ineffective."

"That means workers might have to cut through interior walls of the building to assure that the chemical treatment is properly applied," the report said.

Workers on the project told the newspaper that the coating was supposed to have been applied to dry wall, duct and subfloor surfaces.

Instead, they said, the coating was "placed in flexible ducts that had been lubricated for installation. The chemical substance never adhered to the oily surfaces and when workers tested the air conditioning and heating system, flakes of the substance were blown from ducts into rooms."

McCarran terminal
Wikimedia Commons / Mike Russell

Las Vegas' McCarran International, the eighth-busiest airport in the U.S., is expected to serve 700,000 flights annually by 2020.

The problem was discovered in January, the newspaper said.

Black Mold Fears

Representatives of union workers, the contractor and subcontractors and the FAA "have begun meeting to assess the best way to address the problem," the Review-Journal said.

The coating is designed to prevent stachybotrys chartarum, commonly known as "black mold"—a toxic fungus that led to the shutdown of state and local buildings in the Las Vegas Valley in the late 1990s and early 2000, the Review-Journal said.

Black Mold

The antifungal coating is designed to prevent the indoor growth of Stachybotrys Chartarum (black mold), which led to the shutdown of several Las Vegas-area buildings in the late 1990s.

Because of the coating application error, workers on the McCarran project "feared for their health, and conditions were serious enough to warrant a visit from leaders of the Professional Air Safety Specialists union from Washington to inspect the site," the news outlet said.

Project Details

The McCarran project involves construction of a new Air Traffic Control Tower and Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON). The tower is 365 feet tall, constructed of cast-in-place concrete with a structural steel cab, according to Walsh's web site.

"This project also includes construction of a four-story TRACON base building, two-level parking garage, guard station, and a tuned mass damper in the control tower," the site said. "Our team self-performed concrete operations for the tower portion of this project to assure quality, schedule, and budget."

The project began in June 2011. The architect is Alaska-based WHPacific. The Walsh site lists its contract at $40 million and notes a completion date of December 2012.

McCarran construction
Walsh Construction

Chicago-based Walsh Construction and Archer Western Contractors have a $40 million contract for the tower. Walsh declined comment on the coating report.

Officials had expected the tower to be operational by 2015, "but the FAA now says it won’t be able to use the facility until late 2016 or early 2017," the Review-Journal reported.

FAA: 'Some Construction Issues'

The FAA made no statement on its website. In a statement to the Review-Journal, the agency said it had "a diligent inspection and oversight process and is closely monitoring the construction" at McCarran, the eighth-busiest airport in the United States.

“The FAA identified some construction issues and is working with the contractor to address them," the statement said.

"The FAA will ensure that any outstanding issues are resolved before accepting the final project from the contractor to ensure our employees and operations will not be affected.”

McCarran Intl Airport Tower

McCarran International's current air traffic tower, built in the 1980s, is 200 feet tall; its replacement will be 365 feet tall.

Officials said the tower was expected to be operational by 2015, but the FAA now says it won’t be able to use the facility until late 2016 or early 2017. McCarran is expected to serve 700,000 flights annually by 2020.

O'Hare and Other Problems

Several Walsh projects have made headlines in recent years.

Last year, Walsh agreed to pay $10 million of a $21 million settlement regarding defective steel and welds at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Walsh, the general contractor on that project, had previously made $26 million in repairs on the project.

The city's claims against Walsh and other contractors had been pending since 2007 and were based on defects with structural steel and cracks in welding work performed on O'Hare's Terminals 2 and 3 and canopies extending over the roadway.

In 2012, two Walsh employees were killed on separate Indiana bridge and highway projects. Those incidents followed a week-long suspension of a Walsh bridge project in Connecticut for state-ordered safety training. That order followed what Connecticut DOT called the fourth “completely preventable” accident in several months on the $230 million project.

On Friday, OSHA records showed a serious violation and $10,000 fine still pending in the bridge fatality. In the highway fatality, three serious violations and a $13,500 fine were deleted after an informal settlement, records showed.


Tagged categories: Airports; Antimicrobial coatings; Architectural coatings; Coating failure; Commercial Construction; Paint application

Comment from john lienert, (8/11/2014, 8:53 AM)

huge companies will continue to do public works projects around the US, continuing to kill workers w/impunity because they can

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