The Microsystems and Engineering Science Applications (MESA) Project provides Sandia National Laboratory with a 21st century complex of research laboratories and microchip manufacturing facilities. During the initial construction stages of this project a Rimkus professional served as a civil construction management engineer for Sandia Labs, overseeing the upgrading and expansion of laboratory utility systems to support the new complex of high technology buildings.[more] The Rimkus professional assisted Sandia Labs in managing the contract with the utility contractor from both the technical and financial aspects. In particular the Rimkus construction management engineer responsibilities includedreviewing construction drawings for quality and constructability, developing process controls for all construction phases and overseeing quality control function by interfacing with Quality Control inspectors and resolving problems.
The U.S. Coast Guard became involved in a multi-year dispute with a contractor over construction deficiencies in a maintenance shop building. The litigation, handled by the U.S. Department of Justice Commercial Litigation Office, was over the contractor’s failure to remove and replace defective building materials.[more] A Rimkus architectural engineer was retained to review relevant design and performance documents, attend apposing expert’s deposition, prepare an expert report, and provide expert testimony at trial. The trial concluded favorably for the U.S. Coast Guard, due in part to the technical expertise of the Rimkus professional.
A Rimkus architectural and engineering team provided construction management design review and consulting for the proposed building envelope and window modifications at the Byron Rogers Federal Office Building and Courthouse in Denver, Colorado. As with many projects which encompass the GSA’s goals of merging sustainable design innovations into an historic building, multiple concerns surfaced between the engineering design-builder and the architects.[more] Rimkus personnel conducted sophisticated hygrothermal modeling to analyze the performance of the proposed curtain wall and window modifications. The objectives were to mitigate potential problems associated with the freezing of water in concrete wall panels as well as to avoid window fogging issues. The roof design was also evaluated for complliance with codes and GSA standards. During construction, Rimkus evaluated a construction subcontractor’s work which was found to be in conflict with construction documents and made recommendations for a resolution.
A crude oil and petroleum products pipeline company was experiencing an unusually high frequency of hydrocarbon releases into streams, rivers and coastal bays from pipeline and tankage leaks. The United States Department of Justice, Environmental and Natural Resources Division, representing the US Environmental Enforcement Agency sued the pipeline company for 194 violations of the Clean Water Act.[more] Rimkus pipeline operations and environmental experts were retained assess the causation of the leaks (corrosion, third party accidents, human errors, etc.) and determine if the pipeline company’s maintenance procedures, repair practices, corrosion prevention program, and spill prevention and detection program were in compliance with established standards. Rimkus also assisted in determining the avoided cost of compliance associated with the environmental releases to calculate the allowable, multimillion dollar fine under federal regulations that was levied against the pipeline company.
A sugar refinery wastewater treatment plant under construction suffered an explosion during the construction of two aeration tanks. Without warning, an explosion occurred in the sump from which wastewater was being pumped into the operating tank. A second explosion a few seconds later caused major damage to the first aeration tank, then in operation, while the second was still under construction. Rimkus was retained to determine the cause of the explosion.[more] The city had required the construction of the wastewater treatment facility to treat the stream prior to its delivery into the sanitary sewer system because the make-up of the stream was overwhelming the city’s facilities. The plan called for two tanks with aerators to treat the wastewater. The wastewater first flowed into a sump from which a submersible pump pumped it into the top of the tank. From the tank, the now treated wastewater would exit through a standpipe and flow to the sewer. The sump also had a bypass line through which the wastewater could flow directly into the sewer in an emergency situation (such as a pump failure). Within the first 30 minutes following our arrival at the site, we had determined the cause of the first explosion and the sequence of events leading to the second, more damaging explosion. We determined that (1) the submersible pump, originally explosion-proof, was no longer such; (2) the piping from the tank standpipe connected with the sump overflow pipe below ground at some point prior to reaching the sewer; and (3) the initial sump explosion caused a flame front that traveled down the bypass line, back up the outlet pipe to the standpipe, and into the top of the operating tank—which was full of explosive gasses from the breakdown of the sugars in the wastewater. Subsequent tear-down of the sump pump, along with review of the underground piping plan for the treating plant under construction, proved out our theories.
A backhoe working in a pipeline right-of-way struck and damaged a natural gas liquids pipeline carrying product from the Texas Panhandle to the Houston area. Fortunately, there was no explosion and no injuries. However, the ensuing fire, visible from as much as 50 miles distant, caused significant damage to the pipeline that was struck, damaged two other pipelines running nearby, damaged overhead high voltage power lines and reportedly caused lost revenue for a nearby producing well. Rimkus was retained to evaluate the losses claimed by the various parties.[more] The third-party claimants’ assertions were relatively straightforward. We addressed each, pointed out errors and improper charges, and our client was able to address and resolve them without issue. However, the owner of the pipeline that was struck presented a complex claim for lost revenues, lost product consumed in the fire, lost profit opportunity, and even a component for pain and suffering. The total claim was in excess of $2 million. Rimkus experts were able to address all aspects of the claimed loss. We found instances of overstatement of the product that was lost, duplication of lost revenues (losses appearing in both the lost pipeline throughput revenue and the downstream mark-up of the price for the product being carried) as well as the inclusion of cost for items such as salaried company personnel time which was not an extra expense. Participating in settlement discussions with attorneys for both sides, we were able to point out these discrepancies to the satisfaction of the claimant. As a result, the damage claim was settled amicably between the parties for less than 50% of the original demand.
An international engineering firm was involved in a dispute with an international construction company on a refinery expansion project in a Pacific Rim country. The project had run far behind schedule and was significantly over budget. At stake in the dispute were tens of millions of dollars. Rimkus was retained by the engineering firm to assist in preparations for an arbitration hearing.[more] We were asked to offer opinions on whether the construction company had planned and scheduled the project properly to address some of the key issues. One key finding was that the contractor failed to adequately plan for and then failed to properly execute construction of the modular design for the project. This resulted in extensive delays. At one point, they were falling behind 2½ more days each week. Further, the contractor elected to do extensive pre-construction off-site and then move these huge components through the town to the refinery site. Because of the client’s need to perform the analysis and prepare for the arbitration on short notice, Rimkus brought to bear over 30 consultants, each working on a small portion of the project, who in total spent nearly 10,500 man-hours in the short seven months that were available. Their individual work products were accumulated into the major segments of the arbitration. We then produced a combined animation and live video presentation for the arbitrators and to support the Rimkus testifying experts.
An office building in the Rio Piedras district of San Juan, Puerto Rico experienced a massive gas-fueled explosion that completely blew out the lower floors of this six-story building. More than 30 people were killed in the explosion. Another 80, both inside and outside the building, were injured. Rimkus was retained by the local water utility, one of the potentially responsible parties, to determine the cause of the explosion and the source of the gas build-up that led to it.[more] A number of parties were listed as having potential responsibility for causing the explosion, including the local gas distribution utility and the sewer and water utility. The parties were sued by the victims’ families. Because of the extent of the damage, the litigants were in disagreement even as to the floor on which the explosion originated. Some claimed that lighter-than-air sewer gas exploded on an upper floor, while others claimed that heavier than air propane exploded in the basement. Our examination determined that it indeed originated in the basement, used for merchandise storage by a first floor shoe store. Our finding was supported by evidence including the imprint of a boot sole on the underside of a surviving concrete beam, indicating that the contents of the basement were blown upward by the explosion. We also found that the local gas utility had experienced dozens of pipeline leaks in the area. Given an extended period of drought that had been ongoing in San Juan area, we determined—and later testified in deposition—that shrinkage of the earth surrounding buried pipelines left an annular space around the pipe through which the leaking gas flowed, entered the basement, and reached explosive limits. The parties ultimately settled prior to trial.