Law­suit: Plant fal­si­fied data

Pre-cast con­crete pan­els from Stowe firm part of $5.8B con­struc­tion

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

STOWE » Pre-cast con­crete pan­els made by a Stowe com­pany for a $5.8 bil­lion con­struc­tion project to ex­tend a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., metro rail sys­tem to Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port are flawed, ac­cord­ing to in­spec­tions and a whistle­blower law­suit.

About 1,500 pan­els man­u­fac­tured by Univer­sal Con­crete Prod­ucts, lo­cated at 400 Old Read­ing Pike, are part of six sta­tions in the project.

The rail project is a 23-mile ex­ten­sion of the Metro­rail sys­tem’s or­ange line that will ex­tend in two phases to Dulles air­port.

Phase one opened in 2014 and phase two is un­der con­struc­tion now.

But more than a year ago, the Metropoli­tan Wash­ing­ton Air­ports Au­thor­ity, which is over­see­ing the project, and Cap­i­tal Rail Con­struc­tors, the lead con­trac­tor, iden­ti­fied prob­lems with Univer­sal’s man­u­fac­tur­ing process, ac­cord­ing to a May 22 ar­ti­cle in The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Ini­tially, of­fi­cials thought the prob­lems af­fected about 20

per­cent of the more than 1,500 pan­els. “In ad­di­tion, 60 pan­els were found to be faulty be­cause not enough con­crete was cov­er­ing the in­ter­nal wire mesh,” the Post re­ported.

But a 2016 whistle­blower law­suit al­leges that “all — not just a por­tion — of the pan­els could be flawed be­cause the raw ma­te­ri­als used to make them did not meet project stan­dards,” ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per.

A mes­sage left with Univer­sal founder and pres­i­dent Don­ald Faust was not re­turned.

The law­suit was filed un­der seal on March 29, 2016, by Nathan David­heiser, who worked for Univer­sal as a lab tech­ni­cian in the qual­ity con­trol division from July 2015 to Fe­bru­ary of 2016, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

The suit al­leges that Univer­sal

used un­ap­proved ma­te­ri­als that do not meet the job spec­i­fi­ca­tions for the con­tract; and that qual­ity as­sur­ance tests are not be­ing per­formed; and that data on those tests is be­ing fal­si­fied and pro­vided to the gov­ern­ment “to sup­port

their claims for pay­ment.”

Ac­cord­ing to the suit, the de­fi­cien­cies re­volve around not enough air be­ing part of the con­crete mix to al­low for ex­pan­sion and con­trac­tion when tem­per­a­tures change, thus mak­ing the con­crete more likely to crack, al­low­ing wa­ter pen­e­tra­tion which can cause struc­tural prob­lems.

As a re­sult, the gen­eral con­trac­tor will put sealant on the faulty pan­els ex­posed to the weather to keep wa­ter and salt out, and to pay for the process to be re­peated every 10 years, the Post re­ported.

The suit al­leges David­heiser was in­structed by Univer­sal man­age­ment to al­low de­fi­cient batches to be poured into molds and shipped to the job site, and to “record false test data that would mask the de­fi­cien­cies.”

Fur­ther, the suit al­leges that al­though Univer­sal in­di­cated in the con­tract that it would be us­ing stone ag­gre­gate in the con­crete from a Eastern Stone in Oley, which met the chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion re­quired to re­duce degra­da­tion, David­heiser dis­cov­ered the com­pany was us­ing stone from a quarry in Denver, Lan­caster County, that did not meet the chem­i­cal re­quire­ments and that the Oley quarry had closed two years ear­lier.

WTOP, a Wash­ing­tonarea ra­dio sta­tion, re­ported May 16 that both the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and state of Vir­ginia, both of which have contributed pub­lic funds to the project, in­tend to join the 2016 law­suit David­heiser ini­ti­ated.

Un­der the whistle­blower law, David­heiser is en­ti­tled to a por­tion of any money re­cov­ered in the suit, WTOP re­ported.

In 2014, Univer­sal was cited for the sec­ond straight year by the U.S. Depart­ment of La­bor’s Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion for 14 health and safety work­place vi­o­la­tions in 2013, 10 of which were re­peats of vi­o­la­tions found dur­ing an in­spec­tion in Au­gust 2012.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

A whistle­blower law­suit and sub­se­quent in­spec­tions have iden­ti­fied prob­lems with con­crete pan­els made for new sta­tions on the ex­pan­sion of the Metro line in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., which were man­u­fac­tured by Univer­sal Con­crete in Stowe.

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