Contractor to fix three potholes, detached seal on Baramita runway

-following ministry investigation

The condition of the Baramita Airstrip

Following complaints about the condition of the Baramita runway months after major rehabilitation works were completed, the contractor will be required to fix three potholes and 30 ft by 20 ft of sand seal that has become separated from parts of the airstrip.

This is according to a report released yesterday by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) on the condition of the Region One airstrip.

Pilot and Director of Operations of Roraima Airways Learie Barclay made a Facebook post on June 16th about the condition of the runway and parking area in the Region One community, and he blamed the conditions on substandard work.

According to the MPI, a team comprising representatives from the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), including Director General Egbert Field, Air Navigation Services Inspector Adrian Bassier, Aerodrome Inspectors Nazrumudeen Mohamed and Jeffrey Braithwaite, along with MPI Aerodrome Inspector Alphonso Mangah, MPI Project Engineer Dionne Amsterdam and Sachin Narine, the Project Engineer for the contractor, Mohamed Ramzanalli Khan Construction, visited the airstrip on June 19th and the report was compiled.

The report noted that a film of bitumen, which forms the sand seal, has detached from the base course at several areas, creating the appearance of “interspersed potholes.” With the exception of three areas where there are actual potholes, there were no signs of structural failure.

“At those areas where the film is not in place, the base course is still intact and well compacted. Generally, there are no depressions in the exposed base course; the only difference in elevation/level between such areas and the adjacent areas where the seal is intact is the thickness of the film of bitumen, which is imperceptible (less than 1/8”),” the report noted, while pointing out that at the failed segments the material appeared “a bit plastic,” which could potentially be the cause of the failures.

It added that at the other exposed areas the material is granular, which means there no imminent threat of potholes developing.

The report went on to state that some level of wear was expected since the sand seal is not a structural layer but it was anticipated that this would be confined to the landing zone or touchdown area.

However, it currently extends over a significant portion of the existing runway and the report says that the occurrence is more prevalent within the existing runway where limited material was imported.

“Possible causes for the bitumen not adhering to the surface are pockets of plastic material within the existing runway or high moisture content at the surface at the time of applying the seal. However, if high moisture were the contributing factor, larger areas of the film would have been displaced and not small patches,” the report posited.

In terms of corrective and mitigation measures, the report said that the contractor will be made to reconstruct the base and to reapply the sand seal at the three areas where the potholes were formed along with an area measuring about 30 ft by 20 ft where most of the seal was lifted. 

It is presumed that the contractor will foot the cost of this work as there was no mention of this in the report or whether it will be covered under the defects liability period or via a performance bond.

The report added that while it cannot definitively be established whether the contractor is liable for other areas, especially within the existing runway, he will resurface all the areas where the sand seal has lifted. The contractor is expected to mobilise next week and the report says he committed to completing the corrective works within two weeks, given that the weather is favourable.

“He was nevertheless given one month to complete the works. The contractor has been requested to submit the proposed approach to undertaking the corrective works for approval before proceeding,” the report added, while noting that the Ministry will examine upgrading the surface of the runway to a bituminous surface treatment in the next budget cycle but periodic maintenance of the seal, particularly in the touchdown area, will be done in the in interim.

The report noted that bituminous surface treatment was not done in the first place on the runway because of budget constraints.

Encroachment

Meanwhile, the report said that it was also evident from the encroachment of vegetation at least 5 ft into the runway on both edges along with clumps of grass within the runway that maintenance has not been done since the rehabilitation works were completed.

“The vegetation within the runway compromises safety and over time it will also damage the base. According to Mr. Mangah, a maintenance contract is in effect, with one of the villagers who is responsible for weeding the shoulders and conducting routine repairs to the runway, for which quarterly payments are made. This contract was awarded to a resident and not the Village Council as mandated by a Cabinet decision because the former village council indicated in writing that they lacked the capacity to undertake maintenance,” the report explained.

It further explained that due to wheel track ruts and extensive damage to two locations on the runway, it was established that ATVs and other vehicles still traverse the area, which can cause damage to pavements, especially during the rainy season.

Broken bottles were also found on the runway, despite numerous warnings to the Village Council in the past, the report said, while adding that several of the markers that demarcate the runway were displaced and vandalised.

In a bid to increase the effectiveness of the maintenance programme, the report disclosed that the maintenance contract, which expires at the end of the year, will be given to the Village Council after the Toshao of the village related that the Council now has the capacity to execute the works.

The report added that maintenance contracts for all airstrips will be redrafted by the Ministry before the current contracts expire and the new ones will be used from next year. The maintenance activities, approach to the works and frequency will be clearly defined.

The report also said that MPI has to monitor maintenance activities more closely and if quarterly visits cannot be made, arrangements should be put in place to ensure that feedback, including pictures from a reliable liaison on the ground, can be obtained to verify the execution of the works and the condition of the airstrip. 

“It is expected that there will be greater accountability when the contract is taken by the village council,” the report said.

Field noted that legislation addressing the misuse of airstrips will soon be enacted and breaches will attract a fine and jail time.

Major rehabilitation of the airstrip was done during July to November last year and the scope of works included the repairs to potholes and failed segments within the existing runway, the application of a laterite levelling course at select areas of existing runway to achieve an acceptable grade, the raising of the first 183 metres of the runway by an average of 0.6 metres and the application of sand seal over the entire runway. This entailed a layer of bitumen followed by a thin coat of sand which is `kneaded’ into the bitumen.

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