A probe into New York’s concrete testing industry has prompted city officials to launch a new program to increase the oversight and evaluation of concrete testing at construction projects throughout the city, including projects funded by the city and private developers.

(Photo by Joe Woolhead)

The program, announced last week by the New York City Department of Buildings, Department of Design and Construction and Department of Investigation, includes plans to build a $1 million city-owned concrete-testing laboratory scheduled to open January 2010 in the Bronx. The new laboratory, which will be operated by the DDC, will be fully equipped to perform all required concrete-testing procedures offering testing services to the 35 private concrete-testing agencies currently licensed to do business in the city.

The new lab and specialized concrete unit will give the city what it currently does not have- an ability to scrutinize testing results and confidence in the information it obtains,” said DOI Commissioner Gill Hearn. “DOI will be immediately notified of any wrongdoing discovered by the lab, enabling my agency to promptly initiate an investigation. All of this bolsters safety and accountability.”

The announcement of the new program comes after two private firms – Testwell Laboratories and Stallone Testing Laboratories – were indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on charges of falsifying concrete mix design reports. Hearn said the firms were “flouting the law and skirting their professional responsibility, actions that burden the city’s taxpayers with the cost of evaluating the sites.” Stallone was investigated for allegedly churning out bogus concrete test reports this past July.

“The integrity of concrete-testing practices has come into serious question, and these are three significant measures to ensure concrete testing procedures are lawful and the concrete used meets a project’s specific design requirements,” said DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri.

The new program also includes the implementation of a new concrete re-testing protocol for 82 buildings and construction sites under the city’s jurisdiction that were named in the Testwell case and are a part of the ongoing investigation prompting DOB to mandate the re-testing of all construction sites and buildings named in the indictment as well as other buildings cited in the investigation.

DOB spokesman Tony Sclafani said all 82 buildings have been re-tested and no safety concerns have been presented thus far. And because there is no national standard to re-test the concrete of an entire building, the DOB used existing American Concrete Institute standards to test small, localized areas of a building as a guide in developing the basis for the new protocol.

A new Concrete Unit also was established by the DOB last month and will focus on concrete-placement and concrete-testing operations at high-rise and low-rise construction sites throughout the five boroughs. The unit consists of two licensed DOB engineers and two construction inspectors, all certified by ACI as field testing technicians. The unit has already begun to perform spot checks of testing procedures at construction sites throughout the city and will audit the work at each private laboratory’s facility to ensure proper procedures are being followed regarding testing and the use of equipment.