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Picnic Point sewage plant late and $400K over budget

Plant hit by a propane blast last year is two years behind schedule

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By Rikki King
Herald Writer
EDMONDS -- Construction on a $93.4 million sewage treatment plant in south Snohomish County is nearly two years behind schedule and $400,000 over budget -- and the roof leaks.
Work at the site at 6315 Picnic Point Road between Edmonds and Mukilteo is expected to wrap up in the next few months, said Nancy Davidson, capital projects manager with the Alderwood Water & Wastewater District, based in Lynnwood.
The roof on the solids-handling building leaks, and there's still trouble with a major piece of equipment that processes waste, she said.
Without that equipment, the district has had to truck waste from the site to other plants in the region for disposal. That alone cost nearly $1 million in 2012, records show.
Work began in 2008 to double the plant's sewage-treatment capacity. The plant serves about a third of the water district's customers, mostly west of Highway 99.
The project was supposed to wrap up two summers ago.
That was waylaid by disagreements with the contractor, Kennewick-based Apollo, Inc., and damage from an on-site explosion last year, Davidson said.
The Feb. 23, 2012 propane explosion sent fireballs ripping through the site. Five people were injured. Damage was estimated at more than $1 million.
The water district in late January signed a new agreement with Apollo to sort out remaining points of contention, including the leaking roof, Davidson said.
"We agreed this would wrap them all up, and this is how it would be addressed," she said.
The agreement settled a few disputes that otherwise might have ended up in court, according to the water district and Apollo.
"We agreed to disagree on a few areas and found a middle ground to avoid that process," Apollo vice president Dan Briscoe said.
The equipment problems are related to the site's drier, an appliance similar to a conveyor-belt oven. The device heats and dries waste for disposal, fertilizer and other uses.
The agreement removed the drier from Apollo's contract, she said. The water district has hired another contractor to finish that part of the work.
Once the drier is running, it will take a few months for everything to adjust and run smoothly, Davidson said.
Apollo workers hope to fix the roof leak soon, too, Briscoe said.
"It's not a major roof leak," he said. "It's just one in a corner somewhere, and we just have to track it back to where it's leaking from. I think we've got it now."
County fire investigators ruled last year's explosion an accident. The state Department of Labor & Industries later fined an out-of-state subcontractor for violating workplace safety laws. L&I found no evidence of violations by Apollo.
Some of Apollo's workers were among those hurt.
"It was a rough month and a half, two months for all of us," Briscoe said. "That was fairly devastating to us to have that happen to some of our people."
The Picnic Point Road site revamp is the water district's largest construction project in its 82-year history, Davidson said.
"Part of the challenge was building a new treatment plant while operating an old treatment plant still on the site," she said.
The treatment operation covers about 4.3 acres over roughly 10 acres.
The current cost estimate for construction now is at $93.8 million, Davidson said.
The cost overrun is far less than 1 percent of the original estimate, she said.
With design, planning and management expenses and various fees going back to 2001, the new plant cost about $125 million altogether, district administrative services manager Mike Pivec said.
"There were a lot of people who were gainfully employed in that process," he said.
The district hopes to schedule public tours at the site later this year.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449;
Story tags » EdmondsHeavy constructionWasteGovernment

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