The Charleston Sanitary Board will receive more than $2.6 million from a company it had hired to make compost out of yard waste and sewage sludge generated in the city. Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr. found that O’Brien & Gere Engineers, based in New York, failed to design and build the composting facility as it promised. The city’s plan was to sell the compost generated by the new facility. But it was contended in the lawsuit that the facility that began operating in 1998 never worked properly.
The Charleston Sanitary Board filed the lawsuit in 2000, seeking $1.5 million in damages. Judge Zakaib awarded the board $1.57 million in damages and $1.06 million in interest. The judge wrote in his order:
The city paid for an undersized composting plant that could not make compost until the (Sanitary) Board spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pre-treating the discharges of the West Virginia American Water Company to remove inert solids.
The judge found that the constant changes in project managers made by O’Brien and Gere in the late 1990s contributed to design and construction problems. The new facility was built after new federal and state regulations in the early 1990s required the city to build more environmentally-safe ways of disposing of sewage sludge and yard waste. The new facility was built in an area very close to former sludge retention areas. OBG projected the cost of the new system to be more than $5.5 million.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones has said the city lost $7.5 million from the whole project, including payments for engineering and designing a facility that failed to ever work properly. It was alleged that O’Brien and Gere failed to test and oversee the new composting facility properly during its design and construction. Judge Zakaib wrote further in his order:
Nothing was done to insure that the factory personnel operated the equipment in the same manner as Board employees would have to operate the equipment.
The judge’s opinion concluded that the engineering company breached its contract with the sanitary board. He also said O’Brien and Gere was guilty of “professional negligence” for failing “to do that which an engineer of ordinary prudence and in the exercise of ordinary care would do under the same or similar circumstances.”
Source: Claims Journal
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