Last update: 09-Dec-2013 1:43 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Experts still divided on hospital issue
After near three-and-a-half hours of debate on Wednesday night seismologists and geo-technical experts remained divided on the issue of whether the Central Range Fault system poses seismic risk to the $1.5 billion Couva Children’s Hospital project in Preysal.
UWI Seismic Research Centre director Dr Joan Latchman, addressing an Association of Professional Engineers of T&T (APETT) seminar on project, urged the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) to “err on the side of caution” as it moves forward with the People’s Partnership flagship hospital.
“The global seismic system is currently in a very elevated state of activity. Since 2004 we have had some of the largest earthquakes the global system is capable of and so we should not think that Trinidad, sitting within a global system, is somehow isolated from these large massive events that are occurring around the world,” she contended.
The seminar, held at Cruise Ship Complex, Port-of-Spain, was arranged by APETT to give Udecott and its consultants an opportunity to address seismic concerns raised in a series of exclusive T&T Guardian articles last month.
Latchman, who was among experts raising the red flag on the project’s location near the active fault system, said the fault system in (on land) Trinidad has been changing and the fact of the moderate magnitude earthquakes are being recorded here suggests that the faults on land “can deliver some large earthquakes.” She said: “There appears to be information to suggest that on land Trinidad can have earthquakes of significant magnitudes in the general T&T area.
“There is no reason for us not to err on the side of caution as we go forward in designing a critical facility, such as a hospital. Udecott Chairman Jerlean John, in her opening remarks at the seminar, said the state agency had done its homework and was assured that the Central Range Fault posed no seismic threat to the project. John added: “Full due diligence was adhered to before the design and construction of the Couva Children's Hospital even commenced.”
She told engineers that comprehensive geo-technical investigations were conducted by the Dr Dereck Gay-headed Earth Investigations Systems Ltd (EISL). She added: “EISL’s advice stated the identified seismic and geo-technical hazards posed no untoward threat that could not be addressed by exercising due diligence and adherence to appropriate building codes and standards as currently mandated by the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Designs Engineering Branch.”
John said Udecott did not approach its mandate/projects in an “adhoc fashion.” Gay, EISL managing director, the company that conducted geo-technical testing of the hospital’s Preysal site, said the Central Range Fault was incapable of producing a major earthquake.
He said the seismicity of T&T was low and faults here could not produce earthquakes anywhere near 7.5 magnitude as being alluded to in recent research papers produced on the Central Range Fault.
In fact, Gay, in his near 50 minutes long technical presentation, Seismic Hazard in Trinidad/The Couva Children’s Hospital and Training Centre, sought to pick apart research conducted by US Professor Dr John Weber and researchers Paul Mann and David Soto. They wrote that the Central Range Fault was active and had the potential to produce large earthquakes.
However, Gay contended that their research did not cover sufficient land space on the fault to make accurate determinations on the strength of earthquakes that could be produced by the Central Range Fault. He said Trinidad had a low level seismicity (the frequency or magnitude of earthquake activity in a given area) and it was unlikely major earthquakes could be experienced here.
However Latchman argued that even at a very low level of seismicity earthquakes of magnitude six and near eight were experienced in the past off shore and on land in T&T. “The fact that Trinidad on land has been low level seismicity does not imply we cannot have a large massive event in on land Trinidad,” she said.
Gay assured that all relevant tests were conducted for the project. He said based on his calculations the earthquake parameter used for the project is a magnitude six, which is more realistic than a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. Engineer Dr Ian Khan Kernahan, in his contribution, called for transparency in the operations at Udecott. He contended that foreign firms, in the design and build model, undermined local agencies when they used their own earthquake analysis without consulting local bodies such as the Seismic Centre.
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