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Mall waterproofer calls parking deck design “inappropriate”

March 8, 2013, Elliot Lake, Ont. – The man responsible for waterproofing the Algo Centre Mall says their inability to stop severe leaking was "disheartening."

March 8, 2013
By The Canadian Press

March 8, 2013, Elliot Lake, Ont. – The man responsible for waterproofing the Algo Centre Mall says their inability to stop severe leaking was "disheartening."

Dave Monroe says the ongoing problem that defied all remedial efforts was simply a mystery.

It would be a decade later – in 1992 – that an engineering company offered the opinion that the design of the parking deck was "inappropriate."

Monroe says the problem was the use of precast hollow-core slabs loosely tied together for the roof deck instead of using one large concrete pad.

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He says the slabs moved in ways they had not expected.

After years of water and salt penetration, the rooftop garage collapsed last June, killing two women and injuring several others in the mall below.

The inquiry, under Commissioner Paul Belanger, is looking into the reasons for the collapse and the emergency response to the disaster.

Monroe, on his second day on the stand, testified Friday how the parking deck proved to be more trouble than they had ever experienced with other projects.

"We realized we had problems we did not understand," Monroe testified Friday.

"It was very disheartening."

Monroe, who worked for Michigan-based Harry S. Peterson Co., described a series of measures they attempted, including replacing seals and caulking.

At one point, he said, they thought they had fixed the leaking.

We felt like 'Eureka!'" he said.

The euphoria didn't last long, with serious leaks emerging within a few weeks.

"The mystery continued."

Monroe said he believes the heavy-duty traffic on the parking deck – including snow plows – was something that hadn't been properly taken in consideration when the garage was designed.

There were too many hollow-core precast slabs loosely tied together, he said.

"They moved more than we would have expected and in ways we didn't expect," Monroe told the inquiry.

The 1992 engineering report would state: "The design used for this roof slab is inappropriate in achieving a water-tight condition."

The inquiry has heard how the garage was used as a shortcut for traffic trying to avoid a nearby traffic light. As a roof, it was also exposed to snow and the machinery needed to clear the plow.

A 1975 Harry S. Peterson bulletin warned against careless or "abusive" plowing that Monroe said was damaging the seals designed to keep the water from penetrating.

But lawyer Douglas Elliott, who speaks for the citizens of the town, said the operators never saw the document.