Some­thing rot­ten

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial -

It’s a sim­ple ques­tion, re­ally: if you were build­ing some­thing as straight­for­ward as a back­yard shed, would you use lum­ber that you’d left out­side so long that it turned black with mould and sprouted fun­gus?

And now, a sim­pler ques­tion: would you use that same mouldy, rot­ting wood to build form­work de­signed to hold ap­prox­i­mately 1,272,000 kilo­grams of wet con­crete?

Be­cause, ap­par­ently, one of the causes of a mas­sive form work col­lapse at the Muskrat Falls project is the fact that the form work ma­te­rial had de­cayed, and no one ap­peared to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for pre­vent­ing it from be­ing used.

And it wasn’t hid­den rot, lost and out of sight at the core of the tim­ber, ei­ther.

Here’s a small sec­tion of the re­port on the col­lapse by aDB En­gi­neer­ing: “The de­fects iden­ti­fied … should be ob­vi­ous to any car­pen­ter, whether they are an ap­pren­tice, jour­ney­man, or a mas­ter. For in­stance, de­cayed wood and fun­gus growth on a wooden struc­ture should im­me­di­ately raise ques­tions and red flags. The qual­ity of the wood was so poor in some cases that it could be picked at with a pen. … It should not take a qual­ity con­trol pro­gram or in­spec­tion of any kind to high­light such an ob­vi­ous de­fect.”

The form that col­lapsed had been built in the United States in Novem­ber 2014. They were shipped to the site in De­cem­ber. By the time the col­lapse hap­pened in May 2016, the form­work had been on site for 17 months.

“In our opin­ion, from the time the form­work mod­ules ar­rived on-site, to the time the form­work mod­ules were in­stalled and con­crete was poured around the form­work, the mod­ules were ex­posed to the el­e­ments and were not pro­tected ad­e­quately,” the re­port says. “It is un­usual for this type of form­work to be fab­ri­cated sev­eral years be­fore util­i­sa­tion. Since the wooden struc­ture was fab­ri­cated, stored and used over an ex­tended du­ra­tion, it would be ex­pected that the ma­te­rial would be pro­tected from the el­e­ments through­out its life cy­cle.”

The re­port found sim­i­lar prob­lems with other form­work: “The tow­ers dis­played ev­i­dence of se­vere weath­er­ing. The lum­ber planks were dark grey/black in colour due to the weath­er­ing. This is in­dica­tive of the tow­ers hav­ing been dam­aged be­fore in­stal­la­tion. It is also an in­di­ca­tion that the wood struc­tures were not well pro­tected in stor­age be­tween fabri­ca­tion and in­stal­la­tion.”

Nal­cor En­ergy, the over­all over­seer of the Muskrat Falls project, prides it­self on safety, to the point that it in­sists that cars park fac­ing out­wards on its lot to lessen the risk of ac­ci­dents. The main page of its web­site pro­claims, “The num­ber one pri­or­ity at Nal­cor En­ergy is safety. As we con­tinue to drive our busi­ness to the next level, we are com­mit­ted to achiev­ing ex­cel­lence in safety per­for­mance.”

So, here’s one last ques­tion, one the en­gi­neer­ing re­port does not an­swer: how was this al­lowed to hap­pen?

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