The Associated Press is reporting today that employees from Powers Fasteners, the company indicted last month on one count of involuntary manslaughter in last summer’s Big Dig tunnel ceiling collapse, appeared in Suffolk Superior Court today and pled not guilty to the charges.
The Brewster, NY-based company provided the epoxy used to secure the bolts to suspend the tunnel roof ceiling. Powers Fasteners is the only company to be charged in connection with the death of a 39-year-old woman when a portion of a ceiling collapsed inside a Big Dig tunnel, killing her when the car in which she was a passenger was crushed. Her husband survived.
Under current Massachusetts law, the maximum penalty Powers Fasteners could face if convicted is a fine of $1,000.
In July, the National Transportation Safety Bureau determined the probable cause of the July 10, 2006 ceiling collapse in the D Street portal of the I-90 connector tunnel in Boston was the use of an epoxy anchor adhesive with poor creep resistance – the epoxy formulation was not capable of sustaining long-term loads. The report released after the hours-long hearing in July said over time the epoxy deformed and fractured until several ceiling support anchors pulled free and allowed a portion of the ceiling to collapse. The use of the inappropriate epoxy formulation resulted from the failure of the contractors to identify potential creep in the anchor adhesive as a critical long-term failure mode and to account for possible anchor creep in the design, specifications and approval process for the epoxy anchors used in the tunnel.
Bruce Magladry, director of the NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety said, at the time, the epoxy used for the ceiling panels had “exceptionally poor” resistance to such creeping.
The inappropriate formulation also resulted from a general lack of understanding and knowledge in the construction community about creep in adhesive anchoring systems, according to the report. The epoxy formulation used in the ceiling panels in question was a fast-set epoxy, rather than a standard-set epoxy.
Also in July, another company involved in the Big Dig, Aggregate Industries NE Inc., the company suspected of
supplying the substandard concrete
used in the project agreed to pay $42 million to settle civil and criminal investigations. Six managers from Aggregate were indicted in federal court in May 2006, on conspiracy charges they knowingly delivered at least 5,000 truckloads of substandard concrete for use in building the Big Dig’s tunnels, ramps and bridges between 1999 and 2003.
Last month, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley concluded only three of the myriad companies involved in Boston's Big Dig construction tunnel project were criminally negligent in last summer's Boston Big Dig tunnel collapse.
Two large firms also involved in Boston's Big Dig construction project, Bechtel Co. and Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas offered to settle the ceiling-tunnel collapse case, and other issues within the project without criminal charges. That figure is estimated to be more than $300 million.