Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Severe Rusting at Doomed Mall More Likely in 'Marine' Environment: Report

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Severe Rusting at Doomed Mall More Likely in 'Marine' Environment: Report

Article excerpt

Doomed mall was like 'marine' environment

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TORONTO - Steel supports were so rusted at the time of last year's deadly Algo Centre Mall collapse that it looked as if they had spent decades in sea water, a forensic study finds.

The corrosion problem was so bad, the police-commissioned report states, it's a mystery it took as long as it did before the rooftop parking deck in Elliot Lake, Ont., caved in.

"The rates (of corrosion) observed in the Algo Centre Mall are comparable to those found in a 'marine environment'," the report states.

"It is in fact somewhat surprising that failure did not happen earlier."

Criminal investigators with Ontario's provincial police asked Norr -- an architectural and engineering company -- to do the forensic engineering report into the collapse that killed two women and injured several other people.

The 142 pages of findings, made public on Tuesday, amount to a depressing account of a tragedy long in the making that could have been averted.

According to the report, the collapse occurred when a weld between a support column and beam failed in two stages because of corrosion caused by years of water and road-salt penetration.

The collapse may have been unprecedented in the developed world.

"One is hard-pressed to find a similar example where a carbon-steel framed building in North America or Europe continued to corrode to the point of failure, when no extreme loading is present," the report states.

As the judicial inquiry into the collapse has already heard, leaking occurred because an "intrinsically flawed" waterproofing system installed in 1980 failed from the start, prompting years of complaints.

Inquiry documents show some residents dubbed the shopping centre the "Algo Falls." Others jokingly advised taking an umbrella when shopping there.

Still, despite some efforts -- one of which saw workers fill cracks and joints in the cement with colourful pool noodles -- the leaking continued. …

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