By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
Sullivan’s Island’s $3.7-million project to replace five outdated wastewater lift stations hit a snag recently when the contractor completed work on a wet well, only to learn that it was around 11 feet from where it was supposed to be.
Council Member Bachman Smith, chair of the Water and Sewer Committee, reported on the snafu at the Council’s regular meeting March 16. He said neither Republic Contracting nor the engineer, WK Dickson, realized that the error had been made on lift station 3, located at the marsh at the end of Station 18, until the work was completed.
Smith said the problem would be solved, probably at no cost to the town, by moving the wet well 12 to 15 feet closer to the marsh and swapping platforms between lift station 3 and lift station 4. He pointed out that the footprint of No. 3 would be reduced from 14-by-17 feet to 12-by-16 feet.
“To make it work, we’re taking the platform that was fabricated for lift station 4, because it is smaller,” Smith explained. “It will fit on the site within the right of way and still allow us to perform maintenance and repairs on it with our equipment. It’s a reasonable fix for a very large mistake.”
At the March 16 meeting, Council Member Tim Reese said he was disappointed that both the contractor and the engineer failed the town, adding that “It is a mess up. It is a screw-up. It should never have happened.”
Council Member Greg Hammond asked if the town would be able to get Republic to help rectify the mistake by paying for landscaping around lift station 3, and Smith said “We will definitely negotiate with Republic on landscaping. But it’s not in the contract.”
Smith added that the town could demand that the contractor and engineer move the wet well to where it was originally designed to be, which would be “incredibly expensive and time-consuming,” but he also said he didn’t want to take the chance that the case could end up in court.
“It’s clear that the contractor made a mistake, and between the contractor and engineer, there’s been a lot of finger pointing,” Smith commented. “Ultimately, we feel we are on solid ground to tell the contractor and engineer that they would have to move the wet well, but the likelihood of litigation is extremely high, and litigation is uncertain at best. If you go to trial with something, you have no idea what that jury is going to say.”
Smith said a losing court case could cost the town $500,000.
“As much as this stinks, it is the most responsible and most prudent thing to do,” he concluded.
The lift station project got underway on April 20, 2020, and is scheduled for completion April 19, 2021.