News and Views

May 22, 2018

City sues construction contractor Caspian, engineering firm over police headquarters

Source:, May 16, 2018

The City of Winnipeg is suing the construction and engineering firms that built the city’s troubled police headquarters, alleging myriad mistakes in constructing the downtown project.

The city’s statement of claim was filed Wednesday at Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench.

The city alleges it became aware of a number of defects and deficiencies once the $214-million project was complete.

The statement alleges a deteriorated structural slab and dislodged concrete is compromising the building’s structural integrity. Water leakage, a busted concrete floor, drainage issues, inadequate air flow, insufficient asbestos abatement, a lack of temperature control and no catwalk on the fifth floor are among the dozens of shortcomings the city says exists in the facility, built within the shell of a former Canada Post warehouse on Graham Avenue in downtown Winnipeg.

Winnipeg chief administrative officer Doug McNeil estimated the cost of addressing all issues would be “north of $10 million.”…

May 21, 2018

VHA Review of Selected Construction Projects at Oklahoma City VA Health Care System

Source:, March 22, 2018

The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) reviewed potential mismanagement in the planning and oversight of two construction projects—a new Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) and an expanded Operating Room (OR) Suite—at the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System (OKCVAHCS). The projects were scheduled for completion in February 2015 and September 2016, respectively, for a combined cost of about $18 million. The OIG concluded Veterans Integrated Service Network 16 and OKCVAHCS officials mismanaged both projects, which are behind schedule. As of January 2018, the SICU project was about 60–65 percent complete; however, the construction contractor had been paid about 93 percent of the construction portion of the project’s funds. Inadequate oversight of the project by OKCVAHCS officials contributed to widespread workmanship deficiencies. The final cost and completion date of the SICU project are unknown and at least partially dependent on the outcome of legal action initiated by the construction contractor in March 2017. The decision by OKCVAHCS officials to start the OR project prematurely resulted in conflicts between contractors working on the projects simultaneously in overlapping space. As a result, the OR project was suspended pending completion of the SICU project. Costs associated with the OR project continue to accumulate because of the delay. In May 2017, an Administrative Investigative Board convened by VA reported that an Anti-deficiency Act violation occurred because OKCVAHCS staff had removed an elevator from the SICU project and added it into the design of the OR project. This change was intended to keep the SICU project classified as “minor construction,” which is a construction project that costs under $10 million. The OIG recommended sealing SICU construction areas, implementing procedures to strengthen oversight of construction projects and recommendations by technical experts, and considering administrative action for key responsible officials.…

May 21, 2018

OKC VA project $10.8 million over budget, years behind schedule

Source:, March 23, 2018
By: Justin Wingerter

Two construction projects at the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center are $10.8 million overbudget, several years behind schedule and were once in violation of federal law due to engineering mismanagement and bitter disagreements between contractors, according to a federal report released Friday.

The VA inspector general report — the second in recent months to uncover problems at the hospital — reviewed construction of a new surgical intensive care unit, or SICU, and expansion of an operating room. The projects were conceived a dozen years ago but remain incomplete and indefinitely stalled.

Poor workmanship has wasted money, greatly delayed the projects and created safety concerns, according to the report. Unfinished construction on the hospital’s roof has been exposed to the elements and will have to be redone. Other problems “call into question the structural integrity of portions of the eighth floor.”…

May 15, 2018

Pollution cleanup set for Washington Avenue dry cleaners

Source:, May 14, 2018
By: Brian Nearing

The state will be digging out an underground plume of potentially carcinogenic chemicals beneath a former Washington Avenue dry cleaners near several homes routinely rented to college students.

Plans by the Department of Environmental Conservation call for a $120,000 cleanup at the former site of RKO Cleaners, at 566 Washington Ave., to deal with unsafe levels of the industrial cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE, also known as PERC). The chemical was found in the ground, groundwater and in vapors coming out of the ground.

PERC is listed as a potential carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The DEC cleanup plan also calls for the underground injection of chemicals designed to degrade any remaining PERC.

Work is expected to start this summer and last about two months as about 180 cubic yards (about 18 dump truck loads) of tainted soil are removed for disposal elsewhere. Parts of the site contain PERC at 100 times the level considered safe for residential use.…

May 11, 2018

HP companies counter Stanford lawsuit over chemical contamination

Source:, May 11, 2018
By: Holden Foreman

On Feb. 23, Stanford filed a federal lawsuit against multiple Hewlett-Packard companies, seeking millions in damages for HP’s purported chemical contamination of “substantial portions” of 1601 S. California Avenue — land that Stanford owns — during a grading project sometime between 1970 and 1999. The named corporations in the original lawsuit are Hewlett-Packard Company, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Agilent Technologies.

Now, Stanford faces a counterclaim from Agilent and HP companies, which jointly issued a 20-page response to the University’s claims, as well as a counterclaim, in the San Jose U.S. District Court on April 30.

In the counterclaim, Agilent and HP companies stated that Granger Associates, a former tech company that held the property between 1962 and 1970, discharged hazardous polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trichloroethylene (TCE) on the land.

According to University spokesperson E.J. Miranda, however, the companies “cited no evidence that would support their allegation.”…

May 11, 2018

Sinking Millennium Tower could cost up to $500M to fix

Source:, April 20, 2018
By: Kim Slowey

Dive Brief:

  • Engineers tasked with finding a way to stabilize the sinking Millennium Tower in San Francisco have suggested a fix that could cost between $250 million and $500 million dollars, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The residential skyscraper cost $350 million to construct in 2008.
  • Crews would drive 137 to 150 13-5/8″ steel and concrete “micro piles,” anchoring the west side of the building to the bedrock below. Engineers would allow the east side of the building to continue to sink until the tower straightens itself out. At that point, after two to five years, workers would install an equal number of piles on the east side, hopefully preventing the building from sinking farther. The building currently sits on 950 piles driven 60 to 90 feet into clay and mud.
  • Already some residents have expressed concern about the possible effects such a process could have on the structure’s concrete pad and the building itself, which has already been stressed from sinking 17 inches and tilting 14 inches to the west and another six to the north. Crews will soon start soil testing at the Millennium, but residents, developer Millennium Partners, insurance companies and others are still trying to come to an agreement as to who will pay for the work.
May 11, 2018

Report: Lax oversight of VA project caused $17.7M overrun, construction collapse

Source:, April 2, 2018
By: Kim Slowey

Dive Brief:

  • The Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs issued a report that found both a contractor and VA hospital officials demonstrated “shoddy planning” and poor oversight of an $8.7 million generator project that is $17.5 million over budget, according to The Oklahoman.
  • The VA in June 2014 hired Florida-based BCI Construction for $8.7 million to install a generator system and accompanying structure to house the unit at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma. According to the inspector general, the VA did not submit an excavation plan for approval before beginning work. Subsequently, a hillside and parking lot collapsed, and the damage will cost $17.5 million to fix. In addition to supervisory and procedural errors, the inspector general also found that BCI’s worksite to be unsafe. Safety inspections were sporadic, and 49 safety violations were never reported to the government contracting officer, which is a violation of VA policy.
  • The inspector general recommended requiring contracting officer representatives are qualified and follow VA regulations and mandating that employees follow safety inspection guidelines. The current Muskogee hospital director, hired after the collapse, said the facility has implemented the recommendations.
May 9, 2018

Miami Beach to clean up four contaminated sites, including a park and a golf course

Source:, May 8, 2018
By: Kyra Gurney and Jenny Staletovich

Miami Beach is moving forward with plans to clean up four contaminated city-owned properties, including a park and a former golf course, in order to redevelop the sites.

The city is in the process of designating the properties as “brownfields,” a first for Miami Beach. The designation, applied to former industrial or commercial sites with ground contamination left over from leaky fuel tanks, pesticides or other uses, qualifies the city for state reimbursement for cleanup work.

Maurice Gibb Memorial Park, where contamination left over from past use as a gas station prompted the city to fence off one section several years ago, is one of the sites. The others include two former golf courses — the Par 3 Golf Course and part of the Miami Beach Convention Center district — which have arsenic contamination from fertilizers and pesticides. The fourth site is a Miami Beach facility that serves as a maintenance building and fueling station for city vehicles, which was previously contaminated by discharge from an underground diesel storage tank.

The contaminated land doesn’t currently pose a risk to residents, according to Elizabeth Wheaton, the city’s environment and sustainability director, but Miami Beach wants to clean up the sites because three have been slated for new projects.

The city is in the process of remodeling Maurice Gibb Memorial Park, located at 1700 Purdy Ave., and is in the midst of construction in the Convention Center district. Miami Beach also plans to turn the former Par 3 Golf Course, at 2300 Pine Tree Dr., into a community park, which may include wetlands with aquatic plants to help naturally treat storm water, Wheaton said. There are currently no redevelopment projects planned for the fleet maintenance facility at 140 MacArthur Causeway, but Miami Beach is required to clean up the site as part of an agreement with the county.

“All four of those areas have had a history that requires remediation,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. “We’re going to be creating usable green space where there had been infected brownfields.”

The cleanup work is expected to cost $3.27 million.

Under Florida law, a brownfield designation provides incentives, including a tax credit on cleanup costs and a sales tax credit on building materials for some redevelopment projects. The Environmental Protection Agency also offers brownfield grants for site assessment and cleanup.

The designation requires property owners to enter into an agreement with the county to rehabilitate the site, said Tere Florin, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade’s Division of Environmental Resources Management. Once the agreement is successfully completed, she said, property owners get some liability protections.

brownfield map miami dade.PNG

There are 69 brownfield sites in Miami-Dade County, marked by green dots on the map. Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Developers and property owners are typically reluctant to redevelop former industrial sites because of contamination concerns, so the brownfield designation provides an incentive to transform the land into something new. The idea behind the designation is to get property owners to reuse former industrial and commercial sites rather than build on virgin land, Wheaton said.

May 9, 2018

Cracks where FIU bridge buckled may have signaled ‘imminent failure’

Source:, May 7, 2018
By: Andres Viglucci, Nicholas Nehamas and Jenny Staletovich

A key concrete support truss in the doomed Florida International University pedestrian bridge developed worrisome cracks 10 days before the structure was lifted into place over the Tamiami Trail, photographs and an internal email unintentionally released by the school show.

The documents, released in response to public records requests from the Miami Herald, show that FIU’s construction and engineering team discovered potentially problematic cracks in the bridge earlier than officials have previously acknowledged.

The cracks were found in late February at the base of a diagonal support member at the north end of the span. Independent engineers have identified that as the point where the structure shattered on March 15 while under construction, sending the 950-ton bridge crashing onto the roadway below and claiming six lives.

Three independent engineers who examined the photos, records and bridge blueprints at the Herald’s request concurred the cracks were a red flag signaling potentially critical structural problems. Outside experts have zeroed in on that truss member, identified in plans as No. 11, as being “under-designed” — that is, not strong enough to withstand the pressure from the weight of the bridge it was supposed to hold up.…

April 25, 2018


Source:, April 25, 2018
By: Bethany Klein

When most people think of environmental disasters in the San Francisco Bay Area, they almost certainly think of earthquakes, seeing that there are two major fault lines near San Francisco.

However, even though earthquakes can wreak immeasurable, unpredictable havoc, they are certainly not always to blame for sending people to hospitals.

Gas leaks are.

On Monday, April 23, 2018, a gas leak at a homeless shelter at roughly 11 a.m. Pacific Savings Time caused people to feel severely nauseous. Construction workers had been digging in an alleyway right before the leak started spreading gas vapor throughout the area with.…