Inspectors looking for construction snafus in Ottawa’s largest infrastructure project found water infiltration, drainage glitches and concrete defects at the Rideau LRT station last year, city records reveal.
The city recently released 25 more “non-conformance” reports to researcher Ken Rubin under access-to-information law. They are the same kind of inspection records whose details were reported by this newspaper last month and in August 2018. A ruling last year by the province’s information and privacy commissioner compelled the city and RTG, the project’s builder, to release the reports.
The latest batch is intriguing since the inspection records are largely from 2018, just months before the second missed deadline for the builder to hand the keys to the project over to the city, in November 2018. The first missed handover was in May 2018.
RTG has told the city it will now hand over the LRT system to the city by the end of March. City council’s finance and economic development committee is scheduled to receive an important update on the work Tuesday.
Non-conformance inspections are standard in the construction industry. They make sure infrastructure is built to standards and specifications. If there’s a problem, the issue is documented, the builder proposes a solution and it’s cleared by engineers.
On the LRT project, builder Rideau Transit Group and the city have quality-control inspectors.
RTG is responsible for paying to fix construction deficiencies on the $2.1-billion Confederation Line project. The consortium also has a 30-year maintenance contract with the city.
“Recurring deficiencies” were recorded in a report by an RTG inspector last August related to the concrete on the Rideau Station’s north and south platforms.
There was “honeycombing” — a term used to describe coarse surfaces and cavities in concrete — and voids around embedded conduits. Grounding cable was protruding from the surface of the concrete topping and wire mesh was exposed. There was heaving of the concrete and pipe insulation exposed in the surface of the concrete, the report says.
The builder proposed to repair most of the deficiencies and leave some as-is, but, according to the report, an engineer said the builder “should strive to replace honeycombed areas” to avoid problems with tiling in the future.
In a separate non-conformance report, an RTG inspector found water getting through the concrete structure in a heating, ventilation and air conditioning room at the Rideau Station east entrance. The subcontractor, trying using a polyurethane crack injection to plug the leaks, didn’t have much luck. A second subcontractor tried a different product and had better results, but according to the report, “water ingress persisted.”
A third subcontractor was proposed to come in and plug the leaks, followed by the application of a coating as an additional waterproofing measure, the report says.
Drainage systems in the two easternmost tunnel stations have caught the eye of inspectors, who have also flagged drainage deficiencies at Lyon Station.
RTG’s inspectors found defects in the sanitary and storm drains at Parliament Station, according to a non-conformance report started last August. There was a small volume of debris creating a minor blockage. Both the sanitary and storm system had exposed gaskets. The proposed plan was to keep the construction as-is, since there wasn’t a major water accumulation in the pipes of either the sanitary or storm systems.
A similar deficiency was caught in a Rideau Station sanitary pipe. The builder noted in the report that the pipe wasn’t servicing a washroom so it’s not expected to contain solid waste. Again, the construction defects were proposed to be accepted as-is.
Back at Lyon Station, an RTG inspector discovered inefficient spacing of conduits on the platform, potentially leading to long-term durability problems. The builder “will accept liability for any potential long-term cracking issues,” the non-conformance report says.
The city’s own eagle-eyed inspection team has caught dozens of construction mistakes on the LRT project so far.
Michael Morgan, the director of the city’s rail construction program, said the city has eight “construction monitors” who review all aspects of the construction. The city also monitors the assembly and testing of the Alstom Citadis Spirit LRT vehicles, he noted.
City inspectors looked at the Bayview Station last August and noticed that the artsy barrier between tracks actually didn’t meet federal station standards because there were large openings. The builder acknowledged it and drew up a modification plan.
The city’s inspection team also flagged a proof-of-payment sign installed after the fare gates at Blair Station, kicking off a larger discussion about where to put the signs in all stations. An “agreement” was eventually reached between the city and RTG about where to put the signs, but the report doesn’t get into those details.
Missing phone and data connections were also caught by city inspectors when checking bus supervisor offices at Blair and Hurdman stations. At the three tunnel stations, inspectors discovered that some advertising areas didn’t have power and communication provisions, contrary to the project agreement.
City inspectors didn’t like that at Blair Station a fire hydrant was relocated behind a bus shelter, resulting in an obstruction to the hydrant. The engineers didn’t accept the city’s non-conformance report, arguing the hydrant could be easily accessed for emergency and maintenance purposes. The city rejected the engineers’ take.
Morgan said there have been 842 non-conformance reports issued on the LRT project, with 667 of them filed by RTG inspectors and 175 filed by city inspectors. He didn’t say how that stacks up with industry standards.
“All major (non-conformance reports) will be closed and resolved prior to RTG achieving substantial completion,” Morgan said.
“It is important to note that should any quality issues arise, RTG remains responsible to rectify the issue during the 30-year maintenance term. It is this aspect of the city’s (public-private partnership) agreement with RTG that provides the confidence that there should not be any long-term impacts resulting from these (non-conformance reports).”
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