Ex-VA Employee: Construction policy ignored, patients and employees put at risk

Former Phoenix VA engineer is raising questions about construction at Phoenix VA (Source: KPHO/KTVK)

Patients and employees at the Phoenix VA might be at risk for a construction mishap. This, after an engineer says manual policies were not followed.

That former employee, for fear of retaliation, asked to remain anonymous. He says policy was not followed in recent construction in the Emergency Department.

The U.S. Army veteran says a mandatory requirement was ignored by the VA and even when he complained about it his supervisor, nothing was done to fix it.

"He said, 'Well, isn't everything toxic?'" the former Phoenix VA general engineer said. He came forward about how he says his concerns were received by the engineering chief.

"I don't know, he was just trying to intimidate me so that I wouldn't raise an issue. I don't know but I could tell it was a very sensitive issue and I could tell I stumbled across something that was pretty serious," he said.

He says the issue lies in the VA plumbing design manual that requires cast iron piping installation in the Emergency Department. He claims that requirement was willfully disregarded in recent construction and in fact PVC piping was installed, putting patients and employees at risk.

A VA spokesman responded saying "In response to your query regarding the use of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) piping for sanitary sewer and ventilation in the Phoenix VA Health Care System’s Emergency Department Expansion Building, PVC piping was installed per the VA Plumbing Design Guide (2014) with reference to the VA’s Master Specification (VA 22 13 00 Facility Sanitary and Vent Piping). Employees did express concern to leadership here about the issue, and Phoenix VA leadership investigated the concern and found VA specifications were being followed. The VA Master Specification, paragraph 2.1, specifies the materials that are acceptable for sanitary waste, drain, and vent piping. Subparagraph C (page 7 of the attached document) describes the permissible use of PVC piping. Within that subparagraph, item 2 describes a list of applications that are not permitted for the use of PVC piping. None of these conditions apply for the newly constructed Emergency Department. For this construction (which is a one-story building) the use of PVC piping is allowed per the VA master specifications. Lastly, the Phoenix VA leadership did consult the VA Office of Capital Asset Management and Engineering Support regarding the use of PVC. Upon review of the application and reference to VA guidelines and specifications, they concluded that PVC was a permissible material for this application.

The former employee refutes the statement and says he will take his concerns to an outside investigative agency if need be.

[READ MORE: Special section: VA hospital troubles]

"If it's ever burned, it'll give off a highly toxic fume and could potentially be deadly," he said.

The engineer left the VA about a month ago but says he couldn't leave what he calls his dismissed concerns behind.

"I just want to make a difference that's all. And I believe that me coming forward with this information will affect a positive change," he said.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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