An error in the building process appears to be the cause of the partial collapse last week of a parking garage under construction in downtown Westminster, the city official overseeing the project said yesterday.
Engineering consultants who have advised the city throughout construction of the $2.85 million Longwell garage found no problem with the concrete or the crane that was used to lower 30-ton slabs into place, said Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works.
"After informed discussions with our engineers and the contractor, we know it is not any sort of material failure in the pre-cast concrete or any problem with the crane," Beyard said. "We feel certain there was something wrong with the ... process."
Beyard said he would not provide any more details of the error until the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health program, which is investigating the accident, issues a report with an official cause.
A concrete slab that would form a portion of the garage's upper-level parking deck gave way while a crane was lowering it into place shortly after 10 a.m. April 3. Part of the slab crashed to the ground, injuring two workers who were on the garage's top deck. Both were treated and released after being taken by helicopter to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. A third worker suffered minor injuries and was released after being treated at Carroll County General Hospital.
MOSH officials said yesterday that they have approved the city's cleanup plan.
"We reviewed their demolition plan to ensure it is safe and we signed off on it," said Karen Napolitano, spokeswoman for the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which oversees MOSH.
The plan outlines the disassembly and removal of nine damaged sections of concrete or brick in the garage. The contractor will remove six of the 60-by-12-foot slabs, known in the construction business as double-T beams, two exterior walls and one interior wall.
"People will see debris cleaned and damaged components removed, probably early next week," Beyard said. "By the end of the week, we should be back to work in earnest."
He added, "Any cost of this effort will be borne by the contractor, not the city."
Beyard said he expects to have a written report from MOSH soon detailing the exact cause established during an on-site investigation.
Napolitano would not say if MOSH had completed its fieldwork or the investigation.
Before the agency issues its report, the findings are subject to a thorough review, she said.
Workers were at the garage location yesterday. Several were welding in the sections that were not damaged last week.
"Optimistically, we have probably lost two weeks, but our goal is still to open in July, probably late July," Beyard said.