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DuPont Accused in Bridge-Tipping Storage

Monday, August 25, 2014

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Delaware officials are closing in on an answer to a $45 million question: Who is responsible for storing a massive amount of soil next to a busy interstate bridge, causing its piers to tilt?

The six-lane bridge carries I-495 over the Christina River and helps alleviate congestion on I-95. The bridge, which sees about 90,000 vehicles per day, was closed June 2 after several support columns shifted nearly two feet out of alignment.

Although the bridge reopened Saturday (Aug. 23), permanent repairs continue. And so does the search for the responsible parties.

On Aug. 5, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control sent letters to both DuPont and Alma Properties LLC, alleging land-disturbing activities.

DelDOT
Screengrab via newsworks.org

DuPont "strongly disagrees" with allegations by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control that it had anything to do with the soil stockpiling.

The agency is trying to determine "the responsible parties for the violations due to the stockpiling activity" and is demanding "a clear response as to whether the activities were conducted by the landowner and/or an operator."

Fines: $2K Per Day

A DuPont spokesman said last week that a Delaware company called Keogh Contracting dumped the soil over time on the land, which is largely owned by DuPont. Alma owns the adjacent land.

DuPont leased part of the property closest to the span to Port Contractors LLC, which then allowed Keogh to use part of the area for storage. Port Contractors and Alma Properties are "closely allied," according to reports.

The state letter accuses both DuPont and Alma of:

  • Not submitting the required Sediment and Stormwater Plan;
  • Failing to provide construction review of the parcel; and
  • Failing to properly stabilize the soils following soil disturbance.

Fines could reach up to $2,000 per day for the duration of the soil stockpiling, according to Delawareonline.com. The totals could wind up being millions of dollars, as the state is trying to recover an estimated $45 million in repair costs.

DuPont said it never authorized the soil stockpiling and "strongly disagrees" with DNREC's action.

DuPont's Denial

"DuPont has a long-term ground-lease agreement with Port Contractors Inc. on the property," Daniel A. Turner, a DuPont spokesman, said in an email Thursday (Aug. 21).

"It is our understanding that Port Contractors, in turn, entered into an entirely separate agreement with Keogh Contracting Company to use part of the property, and Keogh brought the soil onto the property for storage."

Turner added that DuPont has no "contractual relationship" with Keogh and never authorized anyone to store soil on the property.

I-495 Bridge
DelDOT

DelDOT determined that a massive mound of soil stockpiled near the bridge caused the piers to tilt. The bridge was closed June 2.

"We have followed DNREC's process for remediating the property and believe that we've taken all the actions necessary under the Voluntary Cleanup Program requirements," Turner said.

A phone number for Alma could not be located, and Keogh did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DelDOT's attorneys are talking to Keogh Contracting, and discussions "have been initiated with Port Contractors," spokesman Geoff Sundstrom told DelawareBusinessDaily.com.

Internal Investigation

The 4,800-foot-long structure, identified as Bridge 1-813, was built in 1974 and features a concrete deck on steel beams. The bridge was last inspected in October 2012 and showed no deficiencies, according to DelDOT.

According to DelawareBusinessDaily.com, DelDOT has said its own internal investigation shows it did not adequately address reports of possible issues with the bridge.

DelDOT first received a call May 30 about an anomaly with a column and sent an inspection crew June 2. According to ABCNews.go.com, the call came from two employees of a private geoscience consulting company who first noticed cracking in the soil around a large dirt pile near the leaning columns.

The agency spent two days in June inspecting 29 of its bridges over 500 feet long; 14 were found to have materials stored under or within 100 feet of them, including cars, dirt, and military vehicles.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Concrete; Department of Transportation (DOT); DuPont; Failure analysis

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