On November
4, 2015 the Uncle Gnarley Blog reported that the new Waterford Valley High School,
located on Topsail Road, was permitted to open with structural deficiencies, last year.

When parents
inquired, an official of NLESD told them in an email: “Inspections of our
school identified some walls requiring lateral supports; these are partition
walls between classrooms”.

Ostensibly, NLESD wanted parents to believe only ‘some’ walls and ‘only’ walls between classrooms were affected, as if those deficiencies were unimportant.
application, submitted by this Blogger for inspection records and other
documents, under the Access to Information and the Protection of Privacy Act (ATTIPA), has revealed the deficiencies were actually far more significant.

Some of the missing structural elements awaiting installation
(The Uncle Gnarley Blog photo)
Though specifically requested, the ATTIPA documents did not include Certification by a Structural
Engineer that the structural elements (foundation, structural steel and walls) were built in a manner consistent with the plan and specifications of the design engineer.

The date of release of the information under ATTIPA was December 10, 2015. Evidently, no Letter of Structural Certification was issued either in advance
of the school opening or in the more than three months the school operated after that date

All the Government could provide was a copy of the materials manufacture certification, equivalent to stating the 2×6 lumber used in a house is acceptable, but not whether the carpenter erected the home according to the National Building Code standards. 

So, the Certification of the structural design engineer is still outstanding.

Second, the
assertion by NLESD that “Inspections of our school identified some walls
requiring lateral supports” was clearly intended downplay the deficiencies. In addition, the suggestion “these are partition walls between classrooms…” is only partly correct. 

Inspection Report prepared by AMEC Foster Wheeler (AFW), a Consultancy, dated September
10, 2015 – one day after the School opened for classes – reported to the Government Department the following:

As you can see, the deficient supports involved walls both between classroom and in the stairwells, too. 

Third, the contractor had chosen to compensate for the “missed installations”, says AFW, by welding rebar to the top of the wall; a methodology substandard and not approved. (The purpose of the lateral supports is to prevent the walls from tipping or to counter the effects of lateral load. AFW stated it had “concerns about the integrity of this work…”

By any measure, does 54 walls equate with “some walls” as the NLESD email to
parents suggested?

And, does 324 missing and sub standard lateral steel supports equate with “some walls requiring lateral supports”?

Fourth, those weren’t the only deficiencies. (Amec Foster Wheeler Site Visit Reports found here.)

Quite late in the construction of the school, the Department of Transportation and Works brought in a Consultant using an imaging process to scan some of the sheer walls for deficiencies (issues separate from the matter of missing and sub-standard lateral supports).. 

The Company performing the scan concluded that the walls in “general conformance” with the construction drawings but a letter from AFW, the engineering Consultant, states this “does not alleviate the requirement for….complete documentation that all masonry deficiencies….have been addressed…” (see August 24th, 2015 letter below.)

The AMEC Foster
Wheeler Report shows shoddy workmanship including block work not filled around
the rebar.  

There other concerns, too, described in part 2(c) found on
page 1 and 2 of the Report (below).
 (The whole Report complete with photographs is available here.)
While the
School’s web site suggests there exists a
School Council, one would have to
assume it is dormant, not a public word having been uttered following prior disclosures. 

It is not as
if they weren’t warned by three Posts on this Blog (including Waterford Valley High School: Another “Cover-Up”).

To open a school in spite of the fact that 54 concrete block walls were constructed substandard to the design specifications, and with other structural deficiencies unresolved, represents, in my view, gross negligence by the government departments involved and NLESD. It means bureaucrats, not the Structural Engineer, are making critical life safety decisions which they have no business making.

I stated in
one Post:

“This is a
lapse of judgment that cannot go unpunished. Children need educators who have
their back.”

Well, the documentation obtained under ATIPPA confirms the government sure isn’t being diligent about their safety.

There is a
new Minister of Education in town. 

Let’s see if Dale Kirby will tolerate
such irresponsible behaviour by several, including his own, officials.

Minister Kirby can wake some people up.  

The others he, and the Minister of Transportation and Works, should show the door.

Full text of 2 page Report by Engineering Firm, AMEC Foster Wheeler (without photos).

Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.


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  1. Where is PEGNL in all of this. Every year as a professional engineer I must put in some bullshit paperwork which explains why I am still qualified to be a P. Eng. It is a complete waste of time. Yet for real engineering applications APEGN are reactive. What happened here is due to the inability of APEGN to regulate engineering in the province on a proactive basis. Where is the Structural Engineer of Record for this building?

    • Possible I suppose but there is more than adequate questions posed to warrant a full investigation of the contracting practices of the dept, the qualifications of the contractor , the day to day inspection of the work in progress and the billing sign off for payment as well as final sign off. I assume the contractor has engineers who approved of or otherwise the work. Ad well maybe this contractor is bared or should be bared from other work for a few years. Problem is they will reappear with a different name. An investigation is warranted.

  2. There is nothing outlandish about these allegations. Government projects are rife with incompetence and cover-ups. When faced with endangering the lives of citizens or facing potential embarrassment,ministers and their sycophants chose the cover-up. There are many engineers and technicians that are upset with this and many more disasters that have yet to be made public but the professional staff is powerless. We all have a choice: voice our professional opinion and probably be included in the next round of lay-offs, or keep your silence for the sake of supporting your family. People are told regularly that if you do not agree with the values of this government (e.g. total disregard for the public and only the ministers re-election matters) you are told you ought to quit and work elsewhere. That and "sphere of concern / influence" meaning it shouldn't be any of your business. It is a sorry state of affairs and won't change unless the DM/ADM/Directors are replaced with competent people that care more for the public than their political masters.

  3. The provincial government (in multiple departments) has been trying to reduce the services of its engineering/architectural consultants for some time now including beating down their fees (under the assumption that consultants are paid too much and making too much money). This is typical that they do not want to pay for adequate inspection services from the design consultants and instead doing it themselves or not at all. In this case they did much of the inspection themselves than asked the consultant to issue a letter in writing saying everything is acceptable. In this case the consultant refused to give such blanket approval as it is their reputation, professional status, and liability insurance that is on the hook should something happen. Much of this gamepay is due to the decisions of the departmental DM/ADM/Directors. These departments and the consultants used to work as a team to get projects done years ago now it is a much more adversarial relationship.

  4. There are far too few inspectors and engineering technologists on staff for TW or EECD to ensure that projects are built as designed. EECD for example currently has a grand total of zero inspectors. The post @10:49 is absolutely correct in his/her analysis.