"The `Syn-crete experimental project' failed, not the HL Syn-crete." - Hodson Chemical Construction Corp.'s "Syn-crete: Questions and Answers" pamphlet.
That's the conclusion Hodson Chemical wants to give its customers and public to clear its name from an onslaught of bad publicity over its leading product, Syn-crete.Syn-crete accounts for about 50 percent of Hodson's business in developing road-repair materials, and the North Salt Lake company has suffered since Syn-crete was used by the Utah Department of Transportation in a failed road repair project that cost taxpayers an estimated $2.7 million.
"We had three large projects for Syn-crete canceled because of the failure," said company Vice President Owen Hogle. "We are chewing up a lot of time answering phone calls from the public and the media, so we had to do something."
He said the Syn-crete fiasco has set Hodson back about three to five years in its plans to capitalize on the estimated $600 billion market for road repair materials in the next decade.
In an effort to get things back on track, Hodson has mailed out about 2,000 brochures explaining its HL Syn-crete product and the controversy surrounding it.
The four-page pamphlet describes Syn-crete as a type of polymer that is blended with concrete for patching and repairs. It says Syn-crete has been used successfully on small and large concrete repair projects throughout the West and Hawaii. But the I-15 project was an unprecedented large-scale "test" of Syn-crete that failed, the brochure says.
Hogle said the I-15 overlay always was portrayed as routine highway maintenance, not the experiment that it was. UDOT said it elected to use the product to prolong use of the existing freeway so the state could buy some time before embarking on a complete overhaul of I-15.
"This was the first time a high-speed (48,000 square feet per hour) highway concrete overlayment has been attempted in the United States. Laborers, equipment, materials and the Highway Department's management abilities were being put to the test," the brochure said.
But Hodson Chemical claims the Syn-crete worked and it was the concrete and machinery used by UDOT in mixing and applying Syn-crete that failed.
The overlay in the northbound lanes of I-15 between 5900 South and 3300 South began buckling and cracking within days of its application, causing rough rides, broken windshields and, eventually, a costly removal.
While Hodson accepts responsibility for proposing the "experimental project," the company says in its brochure that the Utah Transportation Commission is responsible for approving and funding the project.
Others responsible for the failure, according to the pamphlet:
-Concrete ready-mix company is responsible for providing concrete that wasn't up to specifications.
-UDOT for allowing the concrete to be used.
-UDOT and Hodson for allowing untested equipment to apply the overlay.
Earlier this year, a legislative audit of the failed Syn-crete project also pointed the finger at UDOT, saying the agency bypassed normal development and testing procedures, which wouldn't have justified for such a large-scale use of Syn-crete. But auditors also said UDOT bowed to pressure from Hodson officials who asked UDOT to help out the financially strapped local company by giving it a large project to prove its product.
With the failure of the project, UDOT threatened to withhold the money it owed Hodson for the Syn-crete. But an out-of-court settlement resulted in Hodson agreeing to forgo $100,000 of the $900,000 left owing it by the state.
"The nice thing about the experiment is that an awful lot was learned," Hogle said, acknowledging the education "didn't help taxpayers any."