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Damage appears in historic buildings after blasting at future trade centre site

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About a metre-long crack runs down the centre of the wall that holds a Joe Howe plaque, and continues at a right angle along the bottom. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

About a metre-long crack runs down the centre of the wall that holds a Joe Howe plaque, and continues at a right angle along the bottom. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

A new crack has appeared in the middle of a plaque at Province House quoting Joseph Howe.

The provincial government is investigating whether this crack and others that have appeared recently have any link to blasting at the nearby Nova Centre site.

Cracks have materialized in seven downtown Halifax buildings, including four that are owned by the province, since blasting began at the development site in January.

According to documents obtained through a freedom of information request, the province is looking into “cracking issues” in the Dennis Building, Government House, One Government Place and Province House.

St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Saint Mary’s Cathedral Basilica and the Carleton Music Bar & Grill are also keeping tabs on damage noticed since blasting began.

Phil Pacey of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia said damage to heritage buildings is “a serious issue.”

“We have a limited supply of heritage buildings. They are not replaceable,” he said. “We should not put those buildings at risk.”

Bruce Langille, director of risk management for the provincial Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Department, said in an email to department staff on May 6 that “we need to start a claims process for reviewing this cracking.”

AMG Claims, a local independent adjustment company, and provincial engineers have taken videos, photos and notes of damage in the buildings. According to their findings, the cracks are superficial and don’t affect the structural integrity of the buildings.

A provincial spokeswoman said Friday the government has not started a claims process.

“We did notice some cracks but, as these are older buildings, we’re not certain the cracks are a result of blasting or simply due to age,” Pam Menchenton wrote in an email.

On Jan. 9, K&M Inspection Consultants Ltd. of Halifax sent out notification of blasting at the Nova Centre site. But the province did not conduct any pre-blast surveys, Menchenton said.

The province installed vibration monitors in the buildings after blasting began, she said.

The contractor, Dexter Construction of Bedford, has kept blasts well within limits set out in Halifax’s blasting bylaw, Steven York, an engineering technician with Halifax Regional Municipality, confirmed Monday.

Andrew Inch, Dexter Construction’s corporate affairs representative, said “Dexter carries out its work safely and in accordance with all contractual obligations, but that’s as much as we can really say about it.”

Joe Ramia, president of Rank Inc., the Nova Centre developer, said by phone that Dexter Construction was contractually obligated to deliver the project safely and responsibly without causing damage.

“I know they’ve kept the limits much lower than what is allowable to make sure we’re cognizant of our neighbours, and we’ve had these discussions with Dexter,” he said.

Ramia said the province has not contacted him about any damage and he has received no complaints about the blasting.

Panagiotis Katsabanis, a professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., who has expertise in blasting physics, said he was surprised at the generous limits in Halifax’s blasting bylaw.

Blasting limits in European countries like Germany are much more conservative than those in Halifax because there are more historic buildings in that part of the world, Katsabanis said.

But the limits in Halifax’s bylaw are typical of Canada, he said.

The city recently extended Dexter’s blasting permit until Dec. 31, but site manager Brian Reimer said engineers will finish blasting by mid-August.


This story originally appeared on the Halifax Media Co-op website. The version below was published in The Chronicle Herald.


Written by hilarybeaumont

August 19, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Posted in Politics

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