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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Spokane seeks $1.7 million from contractor for delayed sewage tank project

A wastewater digester is picturedat the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility last week. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
A wastewater digester is picturedat the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility last week. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane officials want about $1.7 million from a construction company that took a year longer than scheduled to complete a sewage project.

IMCO Construction, which had an $11 million contract to build a concrete wastewater digester, claims the city put unreasonable requirements on its company and seeks $1.3 million in damages.

The digester project added enough capacity to the city’s sewer system to allow the two older digesters at the wastewater treatment plant along the Spokane River to be shut down for maintenance, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said.

A digester is a tank where solids that were separated from water across the rest of the system are broken down microbially before being used as fertilizer.

The older digesters were built in 2008, four years after a sewage tank explosion that killed one city worker and injured others. Feist said those digesters, shaped like giant eggs, haven’t been taken offline for full maintenance since they were built.

Construction began on the silo digester in September 2014 and was scheduled to be completed in November 2016. It was instead finished in December 2017.

IMCO claimed the company that designed the sewage tank erred in its plans, causing the structure to crack and leak. Those problems forced a delay in completing the project.

CH2M, the company that designed the new digester, was ordered to pay $5 million to the family of the man who died in the 2004 explosion after a judge ruled against the engineering firm.

Feist said she could not comment on any specific claims made by the city or IMCO, but said the digester was not designed to leak.

“We needed them to deliver us a product that would hold wastewater without leaking,” she said.

A spokeswoman from CH2M declined to comment.

According to the city’s claim, IMCO was the lowest bidder for the construction by almost $2 million and assured CH2M it was comfortable following the design. The company was behind schedule for most of the project.

IMCO claimed the city required the company to do extra work to repair cracks and eventually build a containment curb around the digester to prevent spills. The city also allowed a CH2M employee to arbitrate a dispute over the design, which IMCO claimed was a conflict of interest.

The company claims it is only responsible for about 10 months of delay.

Ashley Kimberley, a spokeswoman for IMCO, declined to comment on any specifics in the company’s claims, but said the city had not disputed the company had built a quality product.

The city has already withheld about $450,000 in payments to IMCO and has invoiced the company for another $1.2 million. The city also will seek attorney fees. Last month, the Spokane City Council approved $300,000 to Collette Leland of the Winston & Cashatt law firm to represent the city in the dispute.

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