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Silver Line Concrete Panels Will Be Sealed

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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Weeks after early test results were revealed, indicating that potential issues with concrete panels on the D.C. Metro Silver Line Extension project may not have been as bad as originally feared, officials told local reporters this week that no major fixes or replacements will be necessary, only maintenance coating with a sealant.

Dulles 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.

WTOP-TV reported Tuesday (Sept. 18) that Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority representative Charles Stark said no further work will be needed to ensure the integrity and stability of the panels, which were tested due to concerns over the concrete mix and the aggregate used. The authority will have a silane sealant applied to the panels in question every 10 years for the Metro stations’ lifespan, predicted to be about a century.

Fraud Accusations

The Silver Line project came under scrutiny earlier this year when it was revealed that concrete for the panels was in some cases mixed incorrectly, with improper water and air content. A quality-control manager from the subcontractor that made the precast panels, Universal Concrete Products, of Stowe, Pennsylvania, has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in falsifying QC reports on the job.

UCP also allegedly changed the source of aggregate used in the panels without disclosing the move, getting stone from a limestone quarry in Denver, Pennsylvania, the chemical makeup of which could lead to the alkali-silica reaction, which causes cracking and spalling in concrete with certain alkaline aggregate when exposed to moisture.

Testing evidence
Court documents

QC manager Andrew Nolan pleaded guilty to falsifying test results related to the panels; these images, from a whistleblower suit filed against UCP and Nolan, appear to show air content values outside of  the 4.5 to 7.5 percent window allowed in the contract specification.

The allegations against UCP and some of its employees were laid out in a whistleblower lawsuit filed in 2016 by former employee Nathan Davidheiser; while the issues with aggregate and moisture content were discussed in the original complaint filed by Davidheiser, the most recent amended complaint, joined by the federal government and commonwealth of Virginia, focuses only on the air content testing.

The lawsuit was revealed after some of the concrete panels began to show early signs of deterioration this year, before the Metro extension has even begun track tests. A reported 115 of the panels had to be replaced, but the remainder will only be treated with the coating. UCP was reportedly contracted to supply about 1,500 panels for six Metro stations at a cost of $6.1 million as part of the Phase Two extension project.

The extension is expected to open in 2020.

QC Manager Pleads Guilty

Andrew Nolan, the quality-control manager accused in the lawsuit of overseeing the falsification of test results on the panels, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, a criminal charge brought in relation to the allegations detailed in the whistleblower suit.

Nolan agreed to cooperate with authorities on an investigation into the matter; company officials are accused in the suit of ignoring internal complaints about the fraudulent practice, and in some cases of demoting or terminating employees who looked to do something about the QC issue.


Tagged categories: alkali-silica reaction (ASR); concrete; Criminal acts; Ethics; Fraud; Lawsuits; Quality control; Sealant

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