DENVER — Kiewit, the contractor responsible for the new lowered portion of Interstate 70 in Denver, was fined $45,000 for allowing it to flood in August when storm pumps failed to turn on amid a torrential downpour.
A new report said that "pump level set points on the primary level indication system were set incorrectly." The levels were previously set and tested, but changes were made at some point during construction, causing the pumps to fail to turn on and the interstate to flood.
"Our investigation of the August malfunction determined that computer settings that manage the pumps were set incorrectly," a spokesman for Kiewit said in a statement. "That has been corrected and the main pump system and the backup system have been tested frequently and have effectively managed rainfall since the August event. We continue to monitor the system to ensure its continued reliability."
The $45,000 penalty represents less than 0.01% of the $331 million total bill for the project.
The rain on Aug. 7 deposited nearly 2 inches in a half hour, which is equivalent to a 100-year rain event. Crews rescued 29 people from their vehicles on flooded roads, and I-70 was closed in places in both directions.
The lower portion of I-70 is supposed to be able to handle a 100-year rain event when construction is complete.
Internal emails from the Colorado Department of Transportation after the flood show the state's transportation agency planned to enforce fines for three issues related to the flooding.
- "[Kiewit] did not clear the road of standing water in time."
- "[Kiewit] did not have the pumps fully functional as required."
- "[Kiewit] did not have the command system fully function as required."
The fines were expected to be taken out of Kiewit's $26 million "substantial completion" payment.
An email from Kiewit after the flooding explained that there was more to investigate than just the storm pumps.
"It is our current belief that the pumps were not running during the rain event. We currently do not know if they were not running at all or if something caused them to stop," a Kiewit construction manager wrote in one of the emails to CDOT.
That email also included "other factors to investigate," including:
- "what alarms were received and what actions were taken and were they in accordance with our protocols."
- "the surface water in our construction area that we believe cascaded over the barrier between 46th S and mainline contributing to flooding on mainline."
- "the severity of the weather event to see if there is anything to glean from the weather condition."
Marshall Zelinger contributed to this story.
Flooding on I-70 from Aug. 7 storms
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