State of Mississippi sues local architectural firm over design flaws and numerous problems at the failed State Public Health Laboratory.
Jackson, MS- Five and a half years after construction began on an updated state-of-the-art Mississippi Public Health Laboratory (Health Lab), the building has yet to become fully functional or completely occupied. The new facility, located on Woodrow Wilson Avenue in Jackson was originally scheduled to open in April 2012, but the 32-million dollar lab has failed biosafety containment tests performed. As a result, the Health Lab has been unable to obtain certification from the federal government.
A lawsuit filed Monday by the State seeks damages in excess of $3 million dollars and states that Jackson based architectural firm Dale Partners, hired for the engineering and design on the project in March 2009, and its sub-consultants, are to blame. The three sub-consultants named as defendants in the lawsuit are Earl Walls Associates a/k/a X-nth, Inc., Eldridge and Associates, P.A., and Environmental Management Plus, Inc. The suit says defective designs and delay in services had an adverse effect on the quality of the project and caused or contributed to extensive damages in the construction of the Health Lab building.
Because of the Health Lab’s role in the event of a terrorist attack or other emergency, it is required to meet certain design and administrative criteria by the Center for Disease Control before it can be Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) certified. Despite the Health Lab’s failed testing in 2012, the design team declared the facility substantially complete. So the Department of Finance and Administration and the Mississippi Department of Health launched an investigation and concluded that the lab’s designs were defective, failing to meet the requirements for a laboratory handling infectious agents at the time the design was completed, and were to blame for the numerous issues.
“This obviously represents a serious public health concern. In addition, it has cost the State millions to fix these problems,” says Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) Executive Director Kevin Upchurch. “The most concerning one is that in the event of a power failure, the air pressure in the Health Lab becomes positive, thus pushing the air containing biological contaminants out of the lab and into the clean areas of the building.”
DFA hired an independent forensic consultant which confirmed the inadequacy of the building’s design, and prepared drawings for corrective work that had to be completed for the building to pass inspection. Some of the required corrective actions have included the replacement of laboratory ductwork, electronic controls, door hardware and sweeps, the sealing of walls, and replacement of some ceilings and valves.The project’s general contractor, White-Spunner Construction has not been named as a defendant at this time. The State is represented by construction lawyer Dorsey Carson of the Carson Law Group.
Sherri Hilton: Sherri.Hilton@dfa.ms.gov 601.359.3566
Ryan Jones: Ryan.Jones@dfa.ms.gov 601.359.3419