Poor drainage likely cause of Friendship bypass erosion

Insufficient preparation for drainage around the construction site may have contributed to parts of the bypass near the bridge at Friendship, East Bank Demerara being washed away earlier this week.

Speaking with Stabroek News recently, several residents accused R. Bassoo and Sons Construction of failing to install the drainage relief needed to secure their construction site. These allegations have since been refuted by the company’s Project Manager Heidi Gillette.

High tide and rains, construction workers at the site had said, resulted in the sections of the bypass being washed away on Tuesday. The water has since receded and R. Bassoo and Sons Construction has opened the eastern carriageway of the bridge ahead of schedule, to facilitate the free flow of traffic along the East Bank Demerara Public Road.

When Stabroek News visited the site on Wednesday afternoon, a group of residents explained that when works were started at the location several suggestions were made to construction workers that two, and not one, bypasses should be installed to provide drainage relief to the site. “We live here so we know the area,” a resident, who declined to have his name published, told Stabroek News. “We told them that the one bypass was too small and that it wasn’t enough to pull off the water… and with the rainy conditions that was asking for trouble.”

However, residents said that the suggestion for the additional bypass was never submitted in writing to the construction company. They further admitted that efforts were not made to contact officials at the company’s office to inform them about their concerns.

“We told some people at the construction site and we figured that they would communicate it to their superiors… in the first place I don’t think they would have ever taken us seriously,” the man said.

Senior Government Engineer Walter Willis told Stabroek News yesterday that he is aware that during the construction of the bridge there were “drainage issues and challenges.” In light of the concerns raised by the residents, he said, he will visit the site today.

After water levels started to rise and there was some amount of water accumulation at the site, Willis said, the construction company was advised to apply a pump to remove the excess water so that it would not flood the bypass. Willis explained that this would mean that the water collected on the roadside would be pumped into the Kofi Outfall on the western side of the road. He could not confirm whether the company heeded the advice.

When he visited the site on Wednesday, Willis said, he saw that the bridge had been open to two-way traffic. The engineer said he has since instructed an official from the Ministry of Public Works Services Group to look at the area between the bridge and Kofi Sluice to determine how best they can drain water from the western side of the road, which is still covered in about two inches of water.

Meanwhile, in response to the allegations made by the residents, R. Bassoo and Sons Construction Project Manager Gillette explained that when the company first started works at the location there was no structure in place to provide drainage relief. “We had to dig out that area… it was totally blocked,” Gillette said.

The company, according to her, installed the bypass. Gillette said that no recommendations were made to the company about the need for a larger bypass or extra one near the construction site.

However, she confirmed that the company did receive advice from Willis for a pump to be applied. Gillette said that pump was operated for about a day and a half; which means it would have been in operation from some time on Saturday or Sunday into Monday morning.

Gillette said that the recent rains and the high tide      experience earlier in the week would have put strain on the bypass.
The project manager further noted that no bridge or culvert previously existed at the current construction site. “I guess the government decided to implement this structure to provide some drainage relief to the area,” Gillette said.

An official of R. Bassoo and Sons said employees discovered the situation when they arrived to commence work on Tuesday morning. The official had said the area was under water since over the weekend, when the spring tide became effective. According to employees of the company, the presence of the water coupled with heavy traffic compounded the situation and both played a significant role in the downfall of the bypass. It was noted that since Monday the area appeared to be threatened by the encroaching waters.

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