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Silver Line Concrete Issues Allegedly Known Last Year

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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The timing of a whistleblower lawsuit has allegedly revealed that the issues with several flawed concrete panels along the $2.7 billion Silver Line Metro extension in Northern Virginia were known in 2016.

More than a year before the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and contractor Capital Rail Constructors were made aware of the issue with the panels, Nathan Davidheiser, who worked for subcontractor Universal Concrete Products, filed the lawsuit. Universal Concrete Products produced the faulty panels. Davidheiser alleges he was instructed by his employer to lie about quality control tests.

Flawed Concrete

Previously, the equipment Universal Concrete used in the creation of these panels was later found to be improperly calibrated. Changing the water-to-cement ratio to an automatic machine-based method from a manual method caused the problem, resulting in the concrete containing too much water. The air entrainment—which allows freezing water to expand into the air bubbles to help keep the concrete from cracking—was also found to be insufficient.

Overall, 115 concrete panels will be completely replaced. Those remaining will be treated with the silane coating, which will help prevent water from entering the concrete, though the coating will have to be reapplied every 10 years.

Other issues found include 110 locations where connections to concrete support beams for stations were cracking, which was caused by insufficient protection against freezing water. These areas will be treated with pressurized grout. Lead contractor Capital Rail Constructors is required to fix the issue.

Whistleblower Lawsuit

According to WTOP, both Airports Authority and Capital Rail noted that they recognized flaws in the concrete panels in the beginning of 2017, which was a year after the lawsuit was filed. As a result of the original lawsuit, the FBI and U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General conducted an investigation, as federal money was spent on the second phase of the project.

The whistleblower lawsuit points to much earlier problems, however—dating back to 2015, after the company started providing the concrete panels. UCP, the company’s owner, and a quality control manager are allegedly responsible for False Claims Act and Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act violations.

A federal complaint is slated to be filed within the next few weeks; it will not include Concrete Rail.

Davidheiser was employed as a technician in the company’s quality control lab. He alleged that the flawed panels not only had a mixture issue, but also used stone that did not meet requirements needed to reduce the risk of rusting. The material was drawn from a quarry that was not agreed upon; the one mentioned in the contract closed, so the company used another. The whistleblower himself kept accurate records of his quality control testing when batches of concrete failed to meet the necessary standards.

Charges also include an accusation of the company attempting to cover up these problems. Davidheiser did leave the company later, but the conditions remain unclear.  

   

Tagged categories: concrete; Contractors; Failure analysis; Government; Infrastructure

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