Canadian Consulting Engineer

Report shows up anonymously at Elliot Lake Inquiry

"Going forward from the Elliot Lake Inquiry" was the topic of a discussion at the Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy's conference in Toronto on May 30. PEO is already moving towards implementing its first mandatory continuing...

June 10, 2014   Canadian Consulting Engineer

“Going forward from the Elliot Lake Inquiry” was the topic of a discussion at the Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy’s conference in Toronto on May 30. PEO is already moving towards implementing its first mandatory continuing education program for licensees folowing the tragic collapse of the parking lot roof of the Algo Mall in July 2012.

 In its recommendations to the Elliot Lake Commission of Inquiry, PEO also indicated it is seriously considering specialist structural designations, and a stricter regime for inspecting existing structures. Click here.

But while Ontario engineers are anxious to move forward, new questions are arising around how the parking lot structure on the late-1970s Algo Mall was allowed to deteriorate to such a point that a steel beam connection failed. For years the rooftop parking deck was known to be leaking water into the structure below and it had undergone several engineering inspections.

Now important new evidence has shown up after the Inquiry hearings are over. In an article in Maclean’s magazine, June 9, “Warning signs, long forgotten,” author Michael Friscolanti reports that on May 8 a long forgotten Ontario Ministry of Housing report was mailed anonymously to the Inquiry, with a typewritten note asking whether the document had been taken into account at the hearings. Apparently it had not, though the 60-page report dates from 1988 and was prepared by the then Ministry of Housing specifically on “the deterioration, repair and maintenance of parking garages.” The potential problems of these structures due to road salts were starting to be well known at the time, and the report called for the provincial government to create within four years, “a comprehensive repair and restoration program that is affordable, effective and enforceable.”

Apparently some of the engineering companies who examined the Algo Mall roof’s structural integrity over the years had employees on the advisory committee that drew up the 1988 report.

Whether the province ever implemented such a restoration program was the question that Justice Paul Belanger who is overseeing the Inquiry then asked the province. On May 30 the province responded, saying that the 1988 report, prepared by what was then the Ministry of Housing, had resulted in changes to the building code for new parking lots, including incorporating, CSA Standard 413. But no formal regime was instituted for maintaining existing parking lots. The province said the report was widely disseminated among engineers, architects, etc. at the time, that it was published in English and French, and that even today it still sits on the shelves of university libraries.

Justice Belanger is due to release the Inquiry findings by October 31. The Inquiry has so far seen more than 9,900 exhibits. It is costing the provincial government $20 million.

To see the Province of Ontario’s response of May 30, 2014to the 1988 document as posted on the Elliot Lake Inquiry home page, click here.


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