Developers Sue Big Dig Contractors for Lowering Water Table

Wed October 27, 2004 - National Edition

BOSTON (AP) Construction of the Big Dig highway project and a train line along the South Boston waterfront lowered the water table during over the past 15 years and may have caused rot in wood pilings that support old industrial buildings, two lawsuits allege.

Most of the buildings near the harbor rest on pilings that extend deep into the earth. The pilings are preserved by being underwater. When they are exposed to air they can begin to rot.

The suits come at a time that buildings in the area, especially those ripe for conversion to residential lofts, are selling at peak prices, and owners are looking to cash in.

The concerns about rot and future damage to many old properties in the area may have interfered with at least two recent sales, The Boston Globe reported.

The lawsuits allege that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority’s Big Dig contractors “dewatered” the area during construction, lowering the water table and exposing the pilings. None of the parties involved in the suits could say how long the pilings could have been exposed.

The owners of Fort Point Place, a renovated office building near the Fort Point Channel in the area, are suing the turnpike authority and the contractors for alleged damage to the pilings, which they say caused the structure to shift and crack.

In court documents, the MBTA, Turnpike Authority, and other defendants denied responsibility for any damages from their actions. Neither the turnpike authority nor the MBTA would comment Friday to the newspaper.

Boston Wharf Co. also filed a suit in 2002, and last year in court filings said it had spent $100,000 for consultant and engineering fees to determine how extensive any problem might be. The suit seeks repayment of those fees, as well as an undetermined payment for any future damage found.