A Florida man has pleaded guilty to falsifying quality reports for concrete used in the multi-billion-dollar project to extend Metro's Silver Line to Dulles International Airport.
Andrew Nolan of Sarasota, Florida, pleaded guilty to a wire-fraud conspiracy charge Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Nolan admitted in court Friday that he worked quality control for a subcontractor on the project, and falsified records to show that concrete panels had an acceptable air content.
As News4 was first to report, officials found significant problems with the durability of the concrete used in the largest transportation project in the D.C. area.
Project leaders identified 1,750 panels produced by Universal Concrete Products of Stowe, Pennsylvania, as areas of concern. Those panels have been installed at every station along the new phase of the project except the Dulles International Airport station.
The largest problem has to do with concrete panels that serve as walls for the new Metro stations. In some cases, the water-to-cement ratio is off, the steel inside the panels is not covered by enough concrete and there are insufficient safeguards for water to expand and contract. In all of these cases, water could penetrate the panels, leading to cracking and rusting.
Charles Stark, the head of MWAA's Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, previously told News4 the issue should have been identified before the panels were installed.
"I would say that the primary quality control responsibility is [that of] the contractors," Stark said. "They need to have the people go to these [subcontractor] plants periodically and make sure things are being done properly."
Inspectors later found that equipment at Universal Concrete's facility was not properly calibrated, and a change from a manual method of checking water-to-cement ratio to an automatic machine-based method caused the issue.
"The water-to-cement ratio had a little too much water in it," said Stark. "We don't know exactly how many of the panels were cast with an unacceptable water to cement ratio."
In addition, a process known as air entrainment, which intentionally creates tiny air bubbles in concrete, was insufficient. That process is important because it allows freezing water to expand into the air bubbles to prevent cracking.
The 11.4-mile extension of the Metro system will bring Metrorail to Reston Town Center, Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County for the first time.
Metro said it will replace some panels and paint thousands of others with a special coating to correct the error.
While there has been a whistleblower civil lawsuit filed in connection with the faulty concrete, Nolan's plea is the first criminal charge to come out of the case.
He is set to be sentenced November 9.