Last update: 13-Dec-2013 2:53 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Experts call for site analysis in Couva Children’s hospital controversy
As clearing work and site preparation continue at the Preysal site for the Couva Children’s Hospital, engineers say not all the necessary site tests were done for the $1.5 billion project. The engineers, who have formed themselves into a group called Engineers Anonymous, are calling on the Government to appoint an independent team of engineers to do a site-specific analysis for the hospital, which is being built near the earthquake-prone Central Range Faultline. A site-specific analysis entails a through study of the seismicity (the occurrence or frequency of earthquakes) and the performance of the different layers of soil during an earthquake. The site-specific analysis, the engineers say, “will give engineering values so when engineers are doing their design it would meet the provisions of the International Building Code (IBC.)”
The engineers say the analysis “could tell you if the design is flawed or it is good. It could tell you if it should be built or not. It will guide the government in making an informed decision with regard to the design of the building.” The T&T Guardian earlier this month highlighted concerns among seismologists and engineers over the hospital’s proximity to the faultline. As a result, an emergency meeting was held with Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) chairman Jearlean John, seismologists from the UWI Seismic Research Centre, National Building Code Committee chairman Shyankaran Lalla, engineers and geologist Dr Krishna Persad to discuss concerns raised. Khan said afterwards that a committee consisting of all who were present at the meeting would be formed to exchange information and new construction technologies. He declared that nevertheless the hospital would be constructed on the site and that all the geotechnical work for the hospital had been done.
Yesterday sources said that at that meeting a government engineer said the geotechnical work was comprehensive, so the site-specific analysis was not needed. Contacted yesterday, Udecott’s media, events and community outreach manager Roxanne Stapleton-Whyms, said, “We are a state company, that is Udecott, and therefore we are obligated to report to the people of T&T. “It would be good if these anonymous engineers kindly write to Udecott requesting the information and we would be only to happy to respond to them. We need to know that the correspondences are coming from appropriate parties so that we can aptly respond. Let them write to Udecott, please, and we would respond.” Asked if a site-specific analysis had been done, Stapleton-Whyms said she had to contact the head of the engineering team at Udecott and would call back. A short while later she said she could not get in contact with the head of engineering, but would get the information today and asked for all questions to be e-mailed.
The engineers said they did not have a problem with the hospital being constructed on the site, but believe a site-specific analysis would ensure that the building would be strong. They do not object to a foreign firm being commissioned to do the analysis. One engineer said, “The point is—get it done. It is not too late, no construction has started. Still time for government to heed the warnings of the seismic unit.” The engineers said they want the government to be proactive. “We should not have to wait for a disaster before implementing building codes and seismic hazards mapping and this must be done in collaboration with the Seismic Research Centre. This will only assist the designers in making a more informed decision with regard to the Couva Children’s Hospital. Government needs to heed the warnings of the government-funded UWI Seismic Research Centre, which is the authority for the preparation of seismic hazard maps,” the engineers said.
The engineers said both the Board of Engineering and the Association of Professional Engineers had remained silent on several issues such as infrastructure, the Point Fortin Highway, the collapse of buildings at Las Alturas, flooding and the Couva Children’s Hospital. They also want the recommendations of the Uff commission of enquiry to be implemented in the interest of transparency and accountability and for government to create a level playing field through the introduction of procurement legislation.
The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) says anyone who wishes to see the certificate of environmental clearance granted to Udecott for the hospital can do so at its Port-of-Spain office.
The EMA made the statement in a brief release issued last Thursday in response to a request for a geotechnical survey by an engineering team working on the building. In the release the EMA said CEC 3444/2012 was granted to Udecott on June 14, 2012 to start work at the hospital site. “The EMA reaffirms that all CEC applications are thoroughly analysed and CECs are granted once the authority is fully satisfied with the applicant’s compliance with environmental regulations and mitigation strategies,” the release said. The EMA said all applications for CECs are stored in a national register at 8 Elizabeth Street, St Clair, Port-of-Spain, and are available for public viewing from 8am-4.30pm.
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