Work on Hancock Bridge halted due to debris found below the structure
Work on the repainting of the Hancock Bridge was halted by the National Park Service on Friday, July 13.
Park personnel identified several problems that led to work being stopped, said Robert Hartman, deputy superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park,
On Thursday, flaws in the containment system were noted as were problems resulting from the blasting process used on the bridge, he said.
Park officials found various debris on the ground beneath the bridge, including lead shot used during the blasting process, old paint chips from the bridge, and nuts and bolts, Hartman said.
In addition, rangers noticed what Hartman called "a sheen" on the canal.
Park Superintendent Kevin Brandt, after consulting with the Maryland State Highway Administration, issued a stop work order on the bridge work. Because the land beneath the bridge is part of the C&O Canal Park, the permit to conduct the bridge work had been issued by the park service.
At mid-morning on Friday, the stop work order was issued verbally to the contractor, Alpha Painting & Construction Company of Baltimore.
Hartman said water samples were taken from the canal and are currently being tested. He expects results this week.
Work will resume as soon as problems can be corrected, he said.
Chalky substance reported
Highway Administration staff reported that the National Park Service had noticed what they called "a milky chalky substance" in a layer on the top of the water and possibly some overspray on some of the vegetation.
Personnel from the Park Service, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the State Highway Administration came to the area on Friday. Park Service crews used equipment to skim the surface of the canal in an effort to clean it up.
Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said the substance in the water reappeared and that highway crews were again sent to the site at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning to clean the surface.
"With the substance reappearing, initially we wouldn't think that it was related to the bridge painting. because otherwise that's not something that should be reappearing," Buck said.
Buck also noted that grading had been done in the area for the Berm Road project. He said the highway administration is working with other agencies to determine the source of the problem and "whether it was something to do with the Berm Road Project, with our project, or what it was."
Buck said that until officials know what was on or in the water, they won't be able to determine the source of the problem.
"If we were at any way at fault, obviously we want to correct the situation and make sure it doesn't happen again," Buck said.
Still figuring it out
On Monday, highway crews were at the site and inspectors were examining the underside of the bridge.
Even if the bridge work was not the source of the problems, the highway administration's goal is to regain the permit and get back to work.
Highway inspectors have looked at the containment system on the bridge and found no evidence that anything could or should have fallen to the park land below, Buck said.
"There was no apparent reason why what happened down below would have been caused by the containment system," Buck said. "That doesn't mean we can't improve. We want to work with them if it is found that there is more we can do on the containment system."
He said highway officials want to make sure the project is safe and no spillage occurs. The Highway Administration will work with the contractor to determine if anything can be changed or altered.
Asked if the temporary signal and barricade can be removed while work is shut down, Buck said: "We wouldn't even consider that unless we found it would be something that was long term."
Removing the light and barricade, according to Buck, is not a simple task. He was concerned that temporary removal of the traffic measures would lead motorists to believe the light and barricades had been taken down permanently.
Buck said bridge inspectors are confident that the paint chips that were found are from the original bridge and that any debris that was found was minor and gets cleaned up every day.
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The Highway Administration will wait to hear from the Maryland Department of the Environment regarding the source of the problem before drawing any conclusions, Buck said.