Police Raid Offices of Big Dig’s Largest Concrete Supplier

Wed August 24, 2005 - Northeast Edition

BOSTON (AP) State police searched the offices of the Big Dig’s largest concrete supplier in June and found evidence of faked records that hid the poor quality of concrete delivered for the massive highway project, Attorney General Tom Reilly said.

The state is working with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney to prosecute the case. “We got the records that we were looking for and the information we were looking for,” Reilly told The Boston Globe in a story published recently.

Lawyers for Aggregate Industries said the company stood by the quality of the concrete it supplied.

“Aggregate Industries never delivered to a contractor that worked for the state of Massachusetts on the Central Artery or to the state directly any concrete that did not meet the specifications called for in the contract, nor was any concrete delivered to the site, which failed to meet the strength specifications called for by the state,” said attorney R. Robert Popeo.

Reilly said there was no reason to believe the project’s structural integrity or safety was compromised. He noted that the concrete in question would have been delivered at least five years ago and any problems would probably have appeared by now.

Inspectors for the Big Dig randomly tested concrete batches at the plants, making sure the material had the right mix of stone, water, chemicals, sand and cement, and the correct consistency and strength. After trucks carried the concrete to construction sites, another inspector randomly tested material to make sure it was properly mixed and not more than 90 minutes old.

Hundreds of thousands of such deliveries were made over the 14 years of heavy construction on the Big Dig.

“The concrete on the Big Dig passed every single quality-control test,” said Tracy A. Miner, another attorney for Aggregate Industries.

Reilly said the raids at Aggregate properties in Peabody, Saugus and Everett turned up evidence that the company had falsified paperwork to make it appear that old or rejected concrete had been freshly poured.

Reilly said there was no reason to suspect a connection to the hundreds of leaks discovered in the highway tunnels that take vehicles under Boston. That investigation is being conducted separately.

The allegations about concrete strength stemmed from a whistleblower suit filed in May in Suffolk Superior Court. A Suffolk County grand jury is hearing evidence in the case, and Aggregate officials also have appeared before a federal grand jury sitting in Worcester.

A spokeswoman of U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan declined to comment on specific allegations against Aggregate Industries, but said the office is looking into “all aspects of the Big Dig.”

No evidence to date implicates project overseers Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, Reilly said.

Aggregate provided 60 percent of the concrete used to build the Big Dig, according to the highway project’s Web site.

Aggregate Industries was acquired this year by Holcim Ltd., a Swiss company with U.S. headquarters in Maryland.