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Sewage plant problems add up

It looks like Port Orchard will have to fork over its half of at least $70,000 in order to get work restarted on the Karcher Creek Sewage Treatment Plant expansion.

The extra expenses, which will be shared equally between the city and its partner, Karcher Creek Sewer District, are due to a pair of surprises unearthed by construction workers excavating the expansion site.

The first, an old leak in the pipe that used to carry heating fuel from the waterfront up to Retsil Veterans Home, was enough of a hassle. Any petroleum leaks must be treated as hazardous waste sites under state law and getting rid of the waste fuel will involve testing a hauling off approximately 1,900 cubic yards of dirt.

The second problem — the discovery of a 100-year-old Native-American skeleton — promises to be much thornier. Although the estimated cost of exhuming the skeleton and studying the surrounding area is only $10,000 — the estimated cost of cleaning up the spilled fuel hovers close to $60,000 — the final cost could be much higher.

To begin with, substantial work has already been done at the site before the skeleton was discovered and the city must now pay to have archaeologists sift through all 1,000 cubic yards of soil previously removed.

Assistant City Engineer Deanna Cole said the plant construction has been delayed approximately two weeks, but the good news is that work is continuing on the site.

“Crews are removing dirt to put in a wall, and the archaeologists are sifting through the dirt as it is removed,” Cole said. “So it’s kind of good for everybody.”

She said the crews are digging at least six feet down, which is how far down the Suquamish Tribe requested they look.

“They figured if we were going to find anything, it would be within that depth,” Cole said.

The sifting onsite should “go really quick,” Cole said, and be done within the week. But she said the 1,000 cubic yards off-site will still have to be sifted through, and that will take much longer.

City engineer Larry Curles said his office does not have an estimated cost for the archaeology work yet, but has been paying its contractor, Stryker Construction, even when work was stopped after the skeleton was discovered.

“We’ve already received delay claims,” Curles said.

The $20 million plant expansion is expected to significantly increase the capacity of the plant by replacing some of the plant’s current treatment technology with a new, membrane-based system.

The membranes work by trapping solid particles and allowing clean water to pass through. A bubbler in the tank keeps the particles from clogging the membranes’ pores.

The membranes will need to be changed periodically, but the cartridge-style design will make them relatively easy to switch out. By using the membranes, the plant will be able to approximately double its capacity while only increasing the footprint of the plant from two acres to 2.7 acres.

The portion of the project currently underway — Phase I — is expected to cost $1.33 million. It involves leveling approximately .4 acres between the existing sewer plant and the property line it shares with Retsil Veterans Home. Retaining walls will keep the steep slope of the site in place and security fences will keep the treatment tanks secure.

Phase II will consist of building the necessary infrastructure and installing the membranes. The two portions were bid separately for contingencies such as these — if the work was contracted as one piece, the city could potentially be paying several construction crews to sit around, rather than just one.

The project is being paid for out of late-comers fees — money paid by those who hooked up to the sewer system after the plant was built — and funded through a extremely low-interest loan.

Staff writer Justine Frederiksen contributed to this report.

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