Company settles federal suit over Silver Line concrete tests

The same troubled power connections linked to the deadly smoke incident on Metro’s Yellow Line last year will likely remain a part of new Silver Line tracks, a Metro safety leader says. (WTOP/Amanda Iacone)
WASHINGTON — The company that produced faulty concrete panels for stations on the extension of Metro’s Silver Line has settled a lawsuit accusing them of falsifying test records.

Universal Concrete Products, a Pennsylvania company, will pay $1 million to settle the suit, federal prosecutors in Virginia said Monday.

The concrete panels, made by the company under a $6.1 million subcontract, were found not to have the proper mix of air inside them to prevent premature breakdown.

UCP and the main contractor, Capital Rail Constructors, are paying for a sealant to be sprayed on hundreds of panels, and will need to be redone every decade to keep water from getting in and speeding degradation, thus bringing their useful life to the 100 years required by the contract. Many other panels were removed completely, because they could not be salvaged.

The suit was filed in 2016 and unsealed last May.

Nathan Davidheiser, who worked for UCP, filed the whistleblower lawsuit in 2016. The federal government joined the suit in May 2018.

Under federal law, whistleblowers such as Davidheiser are usually eligible to receive 15 to 25 percent of any settlement, said Nicholas Woodfield, one of his attorneys.

Woodfield said his client feels vindicated by the settlement and is still pursuing a claim that the company illegally retaliated against him for exposing the wrongdoing.

The settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing, but the company’s quality-control manager at the time, Andrew Nolan, pleaded guilty in August 2018 to a charge of wire-fraud conspiracy.

“We cannot give them sheets with any testing data out of specs,” Nolan wrote to Davidheiser in December 2015. “They will reject those panels. We have to change the data.”

Charles Stark, who leads the Silver Line project for the airports authority, said in September that the Silver Line “absolutely will be solid.” The extension to Dulles Airport is set to open next year.

WTOP’s Max Smith and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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