Mafia fireproofing of the WTC
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 14 16:46:59 MST 2001
NY Times, December 14, 2001
Trade Center's Fireproofing Had a Questionable History
By JAMES GLANZ and MICHAEL MOSS
Engineering experts involved in studying the World Trade Center
disaster are now closely examining the spray-on fireproofing used on
much of the steel framework of the twin towers to determine whether
it contributed to their collapse.
The federally financed experts hope to determine whether faulty or
scanty fireproofing, the heat of the burning fuel from the jets that
crashed into the towers, structural design or perhaps some
combination of factors explain why the buildings ultimately failed to
withstand the suicide hijacker attacks.
The experts have been careful to say that it is possible that no
building, no matter how well built or fireproofed, could have
withstood the damage inflicted, and they have not speculated on
whether an enormous number of lives particularly the many trapped
on the upper floors might have been spared if the buildings had
But while the final determination of what caused the collapses is
perhaps far off, what is clear is that the fireproofing used in the
towers had a tortured history that included technical criticism and
bitter lawsuits among the builders of the trade towers. Then as now,
some experts questioned whether the fiber-based material sprayed onto
the 110-story structures could permanently stick to the steel
framework and not crumble over time, hidden away behind office walls
and the gleaming facade.
Officials with the Port Authority, the owner of the buildings, have
discounted the notion that a failure of fireproofing played a
significant role in the collapses, arguing that the damage was so
extreme that the performance of the fireproofing was, in effect,
moot. And they have disputed the assertion of some experts that the
authority had failed to adequately maintain the fireproofing.
A review of the history of the buildings shows that even as the steel
columns first rose into the sky, problems arose. Wind-driven rains
stripped the fireproofing from the framework it was meant to protect,
and construction workers had to improvise dams and diverters to
channel the water away. The workers then reapplied the fireproofing.
That episode was but a harbinger for the decades of dispute and
repairs to come. The company that applied the wool-like sheathing was
run by a reputed Gambino crime family member, Louis DiBono, who in
1990 was gunned down on orders of John Gotti. The manner in which Mr.
DiBono obtained the work was then included in a criminal
investigation into Port Authority construction contracting. No
criminal charges resulted from the fireproofing work.
The Port Authority says the fireproofing material was thoroughly
tested, and that when it did come off, the agency had a rigorous
inspection and repair program in place.
Mr. DiBono was contracted to apply the fireproofing material starting
in 1969. The project began with fireproofing containing asbestos but
most of the floors were protected with another form of fireproofing.
After health concerns arose about the asbestos, he was hired by
another firm to oversee removal of the early fireproofing.
Guy F. Tozzoli, former head of the world trade department for the
Port Authority, said the agency had awarded Mr. DiBono the work
through competitive bidding. "He had a reputation as the best in the
city," Mr. Tozzoli said.
But according to the chairman of the company that made the
fireproofing, a problem arose at the start. James Verhalen, chairman
of United States Mineral Products of Stanhope, N.J., said the steel
had been allowed to rust during storage.
Port Authority officials did not respond yesterday to questions on
the rust, but Mr. Tozzoli said that Mr. DiBono's firm had the
responsibility to prepare the steel surface so the fireproofing
But the effectiveness of the very material installed in the towers is
the subject of much debate among experts and competitors. The
spray-on fireproofing chosen by the Port Authority was an early
replacement for the asbestos-based materials that were eventually
A competitor whose own cement- like product came to dominate the
industry says the material used on the trade center did not stick
well and was prone to deterioration.
Lawrence Shapiro, a marketing director at W. R. Grace & Co., said the
fiber-based fireproofing especially the early asbestos-free
versions never had the strength of the cement-like fireproofing
that Grace produced.
But Mr. Verhalen vigorously defends the product, known as Blaze-
Shield. He said he had no involvement with Mr. DiBono or his spraying
work. He said his product had been thoroughly tested and approved by
Underwriters Laboratories, an independent testing organization.
"There is no reason for that product in a typical commercial
environment to deteriorate," he said.
Still, a consultant paid by Mr. Verhalen's firm during years of
litigation with the Port Authority has said that there were, in fact,
major problems over the years with the fireproofing used on the
higher floors of the towers.
The consultant, Roger G. Morse, said years of inspections had
revealed that whole sections of the original fireproofing had fallen
away and other sections had deteriorated, leaving the steel
Mr. Morse says Mr. DiBono's firm had improperly sprayed the
fireproofing onto rusted steel, which would have caused it to slough
Mr. Morse recently contacted experts working on the federally
financed investigation of the collapses and turned over hundreds of
photographs that he said depicted the failure to repair the problems
with the fireproofing.
One expert helping lead the investigation, Frederick W. Mowrer, said
Mr. Morse's material had convinced him that the fireproofing had to
be scrutinized as a potential contributor to the failures of the
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 12/14/2001
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