Last update: 11-Dec-2013 5:04 pm
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Engineers to call in lawyers
Structural engineers are vowing to take legal steps if the Government does not release the geotechnical survey of the site for the $1.5 billion Couva Children’s Hospital. The hospital is being built in Preysal near the earthquake-prone Central Range fault line. The engineers are expected to meet today to formalise a report to send to Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan and Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, expressing their concern over the hospital’s design and requesting a copy of the geotechnical report.
A geotechnical report describes site conditions to guide the engineers on the design and construction methodology for a project. Engineers said through the geotechnical report, which includes soil analysis and geological mapping of the hospital site, they can determine if sufficient earthquake-resistance parameters were factored into the hospital design by the US-based architectural firm, HKS, which is critical given the hospital’s location near the earthquake fault line.
Khan, in a text message sent to the T&T Guardian on Monday, said the engineers can request the report from Udecott. The engineers, who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation, said if the report is not released they have instructed their attorneys to apply to get it under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Sources indicated that the local geotechnical engineering firm which did the report has been warned against releasing it.
The engineers’ decision was taken on Monday during an emergency meeting called to discuss the information released to the media coming out of their meeting with Khan and Moonilal on Friday in Port-of-Spain. The meeting was called to discuss concerns they raised about the hospital site.
“We are fearful that the country could end up with another project like the Brian Lara Stadium project. Taxpayers will lose a tremendous amount of money because of the lack of consultation in this matter,” one of the engineers contended yesterday. A week ago, the T&T Guardian highlighted the engineers’ and seismologists’ concerns in an exclusive report, after it was revealed that the hospital was being constructed near the fault line, which experts say has the potential to deliver an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 or above.
But after the meeting on Friday, both Khan and Moonilal said the experts’ fears about the building design specifications were addressed and both sides had agreed the hospital should be built at the site. An Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) release issued on Monday assured that fears expressed by the experts were “put to rest” at Friday’s meeting. But the engineers say at the meeting they raised more concerns, which would only be addressed if they are allowed to analyse the geotechnical report.
According to the Udecott release, the UWI Seismic Research Unit, led by acting director Dr Joan Latchman, noted on Friday “that a comprehensive geotechnical investigation was conducted by a highly respected and independent company and their report resulted from reconnaissance surveys; detailed topographic surveys; 15 boreholes; nine test pits, a rigorous laboratory testing programme; desktop studies among other tenets.”
Udecott insisted in its release that HKS, architects for the facility, “used the seismic design parameters as set out in the geotechnical report inclusive of surface displacement and liquefaction. “In the event of a major earthquake, the Couva Children’s Hospital design will allow for continuity of operations, care of patients and receipt of casualties and those in need of health care,” Udecott added.
The engineers have since said they “were reliably informed that the geotechnical report may be flawed and could delay the project if this was found to be true.” Some consultants at Monday’s engineers’ meeting also indicated that it is in the best interest of HKS to do a due diligence and to collaborate with the UWI Seismic Research Centre, which is the authority for providing information on earthquake hazard maps.
They are also calling on Moonilal to ensure that Udecott follow the same methodology as the contractors on the Point Fortin highway and to commission a probabilistic report of the Couva hospital site before starting construction.
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