Peter Binose: St Vincent’s Argyle airport update


Argyle International Airport, St Vincent and the Grenadines (Credit:

Peter Binose

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Friday June 13, 2014 – I have visited the airport three times every week during the last two months. Recently I watched with my new ‘Sunagor 30- 160X70 binoculars’ from the base of the control tower site, a man I know as a Cuban engineer assisted by a Vincentian labourer testing the runway compaction.

Instead of making a grid in the process of analysing the runway compaction test scientifically it was more of a willy-nilly kind of testing regime.

We were told by prime minister Gonsalves that the test was carried out in our new laboratory. He told us how the contractors could get away with nothing. What he didn’t tell us was that we have no contractors. We are building an airport ‘self build style‘,  we are our own contractors. In fact it started out as a ULP project, they were the contractors, all the trucks still carry stickers “we are ULP” and “we are labour”, but when financial difficulties arose, it became a state contract.

When he told us the compaction test was carried out in the laboratory I assumed that the test was called the Proctor test. The Proctor compaction test is a laboratory method of experimentally determining the optimal moisture content at which a given soil type will become most dense and achieve its maximum dry density. The term Proctor is in honour of R. R. Proctor, who in 1933 showed that the dry density of a soil for a given compactive effort depends on the amount of water the soil contains during soil compaction. His original test is most commonly referred to as the standard Proctor compaction test; later on, his test was updated to create the modified Proctor compaction test.

What I believe I saw during my recent visits was a Cuban engineer testing the compaction by a method which appeared to be the Troxler gauge testing system. There are several types of Troxler Gauge’s, some work with a nuclear gauge and some with a non nuclear gauge,  both are used for testing in the field and not in the laboratory. The test and the results is done right there at the runway. The engineers assistant drives in a spike to make a hole, then the gauge rod is lowered into the hole in measured depths. A reading is taken and noted and written into a log. So there is no laboratory test, the test takes place right there in the field.

But what we need to consider is that the test is not carried out by an independent test expert, but by one of our own employed Cuban workers. One might ask the question “so what?”, we are doing our own testing and can write anything we want in the log book. This procedure is most unreliable and we rely on one man, who is our man, who can write whatever he wants, even what he is instructed, in the log and submit it as fact.

So when we got that spiel from the prime minister about “the contractor can get away with nothing” surely this is untruthful. Because in carrying out a self-test relying only on one man’s honesty and credibility, we/they can theoretically get away with everything.

Remember I previously wrote that I expect a new report that says compaction is OK and for the cement to be then laid.   The runway must read 100% compaction and everywhere else grass areas etc, must be compacted to at least 92%. I do not believe for a nanosecond that the whole site will ever reach the criteria that is required by the FAA and other air licensing agencies.

According to my Cuban informant. They have been using a brand new concrete pump mounted on a truck, operated by Cuban workers. Last week they left cement in it overnight,  which then dried and set in the machine. The whole machine is now scrap. That’s what you call Cuban expertise.

Runway and airport terminal building apron water and chemicals will still be drained into the nearby stream, then into the sea. No provision for removing the chemicals or even for future testing of the effluent. This could well mean death of fishing in the area between Argyle and Kingstown, perhaps affecting even the Leeward coast.

The terminal is still 30 feet below the runway. Nothing can now be done about that.

We are still paying the Cubans wages and the Venezuelans still are not reimbursing us as they promised.

They have filled a small but deep valley that fronts at the Rawacou road right next to the resort. The way it has been filled is an absolute certainty for a massive land slip during some heavy rain period. There has already been some small slippages. To make matters worse they have stored many thousands of tons of crushed stone on top of the unstable land fill.

We still have no coalition of the willing, that has turned out to be the biggest untruth in the whole history of the St Vincent and the Grenadines; I will not say a lie, because it may just be ignorant stupidity on the part of he that negotiated such a deal without written contracts. But thinking about it, I don’t think so.

What peeves me is why must we be lied to about everything, including compaction testing?

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peter Binose. Peter Binose,self appointed keeper of the bugle, thrown the whistle away.