Monday, June 23, 2008 - 14:12

Largest contractor on Big Dig project charged

Company accused of lying about quality of its work

Federal prosecutors have charged the largest construction contractor on Boston’s $15 million Big Dig road and tunnel construction project with lying about the quality of its work on two areas of the tunnel system, including the portion where a 2006 ceiling collapse killed a woman.

The U.S. attorney’s office charged Modern Continental Construction Co. in federal court June 20 with knowingly using the wrong epoxy to suspend concrete anchors which failed, causing the collapse in the I-90 Connector Tunnel and the death of 39-year-old Milena Del Valle, who was crushed when the concrete fell on a car driven by her husband.

The company was also charged with knowing about poor workmanship on slurry walls in the I-93 Tip O’Neill Tunnel before portions of the walls blew out in September 2004, causing water to pour into the tunnel and a major traffic problem.

If convicted, Modern Continental faces up to $500,000 for each of 49 counts, or a total of $24.5 million, as well as restitution payments. The counts range from making false statements to wire fraud and submitting phony time and materials slips.

In a statement, the Cambridge-based Modern Continental called the charges "completely unfounded and without merit” and "an attempt after the fact to criminalize actions" that were approved by state officials. The company said project officials knew certain slurry wall panels were built with slurry that did not meet specifications, and in some cases specifically approved it.

The company also pointed to the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into the 2006 ceiling collapse, which found that Modern Continental was unaware that the epoxy being used to secure the concrete anchors was unsuitable for that use.

Reuters, Associated Press

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