Whistleblower

Questions Construction Safety

at Las Vegas International McCarran

Airport

An inspector turned whistleblower says deadlines and

dollars is resulting in unsafe concrete being used on runway

 

 

By Darcy Spears

 

May 1, 2008

 

It is not your everyday construction project.

 

“Not a curb, not a sidewalk, not a slab on grade, this is a runway tarmac. This is heavy equipment on it and people,” explained John Zedler. 

 

They are not building a runway, but it has to be as safe and as strong for planes to taxi and park.

 

“This is very serious. This is an airport. You got people all over the world coming to Las Vegas,” said John. 

 

John Zedler knows concrete.

 

“From my notes, maybe 10% of it was right and 90% of it was wrong,” explained John. 

 

He is a licensed, certified concrete inspector who worked for Western Technologies on two airport construction sites.

 

Concrete has to meet specifications including numeric field tests to ensure it is strong enough, hard enough and structurally sound.

 

“The reason why we have those specifications is because you could get structural fractures, movement and a lot of other things,” said John.

 

Each cement truck contains about 10 yards of concrete and according to John’s field journal, load after load was failing the tests.

 

Even so, he says contractors knowingly poured about 8 football fields worth of unsafe concrete at McCarran International Airport.

 

“I would call out the actual number. The gentleman writing down the field notes on the paperwork would actually change it to make it pass,” said John.

 

If they have to pull concrete out and do it again, it costs a ton of time and time, as they say, is money.

 

Contact 13 obtained John’s field notes and the reports Western Technologies gave to the Department of Aviation.

 

Time after time, the paperwork does not match up.

 

In some cases, the failing number is scratched out and a passing one is written over it.

 

“It is not right. I told my supervisor. I told my company. I have even spoke with the other contractors and sub-contractors out there,” said John.

 

But he says they just blew it off and started taking work away from him.

 

Because of that, he secretly recorded a meeting with Western Tech officials and Contact 13 got a copy of that tape.

 

“It is serious on our part. We take quality very seriously and airport jobs are very important to us,” said Paul Davis. 

 

Davis asked John for his field journal to match against the test results in Western Tech’s file, the one’s John says have been doctored.

 

“I hope you can figure out a way to work with us,” said Paul.

 

“Oh yeah, I was just saying that when I get a number, I write it down and I do not change it. I do not fudge numbers,” said John. 

 

They seem very concerned, but what is it really about? 

 

“I appreciate you coming in and if I sound stern it is just because,” said Paul. 

 

John responded, “Oh, I understand I mean you guys have been out here for how long, what, 12 years?”

 

Paul said, “Well, yeah.” 

 

John then added, “And this is your client and you guys are trying to get the next bid? Yeah, I am sorry. I do not fudge numbers and it upsets me.”

 

Paul said, “We do not tolerate it at all.”

 

“When I try to tell somebody what is going on I get accused of being cocky,” said John. 

 

The day after John turned over his field notes, he was fired. 

 

They gave him a final check for one penny.

 

“After I was fired, they also made a false police report to the local police department,” said John.

 

The report accused John of making threats on the job site.

 

Police quickly closed the case for insufficient evidence.

 

John was the only one who would put his money where his mouth is and go on camera for the story.

 

“It makes me wonder what has been going on over the past years, you know? It just makes me nervous,” said John. 

 

After the fifth phone call to Western Technologies the company sent a written statement saying John Zedler’s allegations are false.

 

But they have a company that manages all airport construction.

 

The company, Bechtel, admits some concrete was poured after failing safety tests.

 

But they say that does not matter because follow-up tests show the concrete is structurally sound.

 

The Department of Aviation, who everybody works for, says the same.

 

They are all relying on data supplied by Western Technologies, the very same company accused of fudging the numbers in the first place.

 

John says he has learned one thing from all this, honesty can be a liability in the fast-paced world of construction.

 

“I am pretty sure I am gonna be blackballed or blacklisted because they do not want somebody out there that is gonna be considered a liability because they are out there to make a buck,” said John. 

 

Action News asked a McCarran spokesperson if the Department of Aviation would be willing to bring in an independent expert to ensure their test results are accurate.

 

They would not, but the Federal Aviation Administration might.

 

The FAA has opened a case under the Whistleblower Protection Program and will be investigating the safety issues John Zedler raised.

 

Stay tuned to Action News as we monitor developing news around the Valley.

 

 

http://www.ktnv.com/Global/story.asp?S=8259753

 

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Watch the ABC Broadcast

 

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