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Contractor Pleads Guilty in Metro Concrete Case

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

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The quality-control manager who oversaw testing of concrete used on the D.C. Metro Silver Line extension project pleaded guilty Friday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and has agreed to testify in the event of future charges for others in relation to the wrongdoing. 

Andrew Nolan, 28, admitted guilt in the SIlver Line scandal, in which he and others at concrete fabricator Universal Concrete Products, of Stowe, Pennsylvania, stand accused of having falsified quality-control reports on concrete panels used in the construction of stations along the new Metro line, extending to Dulles International Airport in Virginia and beyond. According to records from the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, he was charged criminally on July 27.

Dulles Metro Station
Mgueylee, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Silver Line project will, when finished, extend the Metro system to Dulles International Airport and beyond; the Dulles station, shown here under construction in 2015, is the only station in the Phase Two section of the project not to contain the faulty concrete panels.

Nolan, along with UCP president and co-owner Donald Faust and UCP itself, is also named in a whistleblower lawsuit that was filed two years ago under the False Claims Act, but was recently joined by the federal government and commonwealth of Virginia.

Nolan could face up to five years in prison and was ordered to pay just over $700,000 in restitution to the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority. He is immune from further criminal charges related to the matter and as part of the plea agreement has consented to testifying and providing documents and information to aid in the investigation.

Flaws in Concrete Panels

While former UCP employee Nathan Davidheiser filed the whistleblower suit in federal court in 2016, the Silver Line concrete issues became widely known earlier this year when project leaders revealed that 1,750 panels supplied by Universal were faulty, having been fabricated with an incorrect water-to-cement ratio. The panels had been installed in every station along the second phase of the project, except the Dulles International Airport station. Contractors first noticed flaws in the panels in 2017; the fraud allegedly had taken place from 2015 through at least early 2017.

According to reports, 115 of the panels are being replaced completely, while the other panels will be treated with a silane coating to prevent moisture intrusion. Late last month, though, the MWAA revealed that early testing of 20 samples showed the problem may not be as widespread and serious as first feared. 

Air Content Faked

According to the whistleblower suit, during the project, in which Universal supplied $6.1 million in precast concrete products to contractor Capital Rail Constructors (a joint venture of Clark Construction Group and Kiewit Infrastructure South), QC tests on the panels showed air content of less than 4 percent. The specification for the panels called for air content between 4.5 and 7.5 percent, to allow for expansion and contraction of moisture in the concrete in cold weather.

Nolan, the suit alleges, repeatedly falsified QC reports to tell the general contractor that the concrete being produced for the project met the spec, and encouraged others in the QC department to do the same. The suit also accuses upper management of covering for Nolan, going so far as to terminate a company vice president who called for an internal audit of the department's practices. 


Tagged categories: concrete; Criminal acts; Ethics; Government; Mass transit; Quality control

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