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Accusations fly over toxic grout advice

SWEDISH CONTRACTOR Skanska has claimed that lack of information about the dangers of using Rhoca-Gil chemical grout led to last autumn's groundwater poisoning on the Hallandss tunnel project in southern Sweden (NCE 23 October 1997).

Skanska project manager Jan Stattin, speaking at a British Tunnelling Society meeting last week in London, complained that information provided by French manufacturer Rhne-Poulenc 'left a lot to be desired'. He added: 'Some information was wrong, some misleading and important information was not given.'

But Rhne-Poulenc immediately hit back and denied that the contractor was unaware of how to use the product. Spokeswoman Muriel Crozier Patoux added that all information about the safety of Rhoca-Gil was given to Skanska on site and was correct.

A legal inquiry into the incident is under way and expected to be complete in a month. Crozier Patoux said the company would not comment any further until this inquiry was over.

Stattin's outburst came during a presentation about the environmental alert last September on the £77M high-speed Malm-Gothenburg line in southern Sweden. Part of the grout, which contains the toxic carcinogen acrylamide, failed to cure and entered the local water supply. Tunnel workers complained of irritation in their eyes and throat soon after work began and some have still not fully regained feeling in hands and feet. Work on this part of the line is at a standstill almost six months after the incident.

Stattin also disputed Rhine-Poulenc's claims that this was the first time such an incident had occurred. 'There have been problems before, but they have never been reported,' he said.

Permanent lining is now considered to be the only way to reduce leakage to the levels demanded by the Swedish Water Court. Preparatory work is under way to put this plan into place as soon as work restarts.

Meanwhile, Skanska is concentrating all its efforts into containing the problem and Stattin said levels of acrylamide in the water supply were 'very, very low, much lower than the acceptable limits set in Sweden'.

Max Soudain

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