Finger Pointed in Federal Courthouse Flood

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – A contractor that was fired during construction of the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse a decade ago is blamed for a massive water leak that caused millions of dollars in damages last month.
     Morse Diesel is responsible for a misaligned pipe that caused the water burst, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
     Morse Diesel pleaded guilty in 2000 to a criminal charge and paid a $500,000 fine for submitting a false claim to the General Services Administration, which operates federal buildings.
     The government eventually collected $19 million from AMEC Construction Management, Morse Diesel’s parent company, for allegations of fraud, false claims and kickbacks on several GSA contracts, including the Eagleton courthouse.
     GSA spokeswoman Angela Brees told the Post-Dispatch that the agency could not go back and get any money from Morse Diesel to cover the damages.
     There is no official estimate on damages, but Brees said even after the estimate is completed federal regulations prohibit release of the figures until repair contracts are signed.
     A pipe burst sometime after 10 p.m. on Aug. 24, creating a 17-story waterfall, water-logging courtrooms and damaging electronic equipment. The courtrooms have been deemed unusable for at least 6 months.
     Brees told the Post-Dispatch that the building has had three other water leaks. One happened before the building was occupied and two others occurred on a sprinkler line that froze in cold weather. None of those leaks caused serious damage.
     When it was dedicated in 2000, the Eagleton was the biggest federal courthouse in the country, rising 29 stories. In addition to housing the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, it houses offices for several other federal agencies and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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