As contractors continue a $4.2 million project to reduce the odor emanating from the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Saline City Council is considering legal action against a company that supplied malfunctioning filters during a $3 million improvement in 2016.
Weiss Construction installed the filters, manufactured by Nova, in September of 2016. The disk filters are used at the end of the of the wastewater treatment process. The malfunctioning filters are not believed to be related to the odor issue. But the two filters have been periodically malfunctioning since they were installed. Recently, the plant has been operating with both filters malfunctioning.
The city is not happy with the situation. For one, it requires personnel to work more hours at the plant. Secondly, the malfunctioning filters make it more likely the city will discharge pollutants into the Saline River.
“In July this body said we don’t want any discharges, whether they are over the limit or not, acceptable. I feel strongly about that,” Councillor Christen Mitchell said.
Tetra Tech manages many of the city’s water and wastewater treatment projects, including the $3 million upgrade completed two years ago.
Councillor Janet Dillon asked Tetra Tech project manager Brian Rubel how much the Nova filters cost. Rubel recalled the Nova filters line item was about $700,000.
Councillors Dillon and Dean Girbach have been vigilant on this issue, with Dillon questioning former water superintendent Bob Scull and current superintendent Steve Wyzgoski about the filters at every council meeting.
It’s clear that council is losing patience. At the Dec. 17 meeting, council had city attorney Roger Swets overseeing the discussion. On two occasions, Swets interrupted council members and suggested their questions were best handled by the city’s legal firm. After the meeting, council went into executive session for more than a half an hour to discuss a legal opinion.
After more than two years of going round-and-round with Nova, the city was dismayed to learn their chief contact had left the firm. Several times the city tried and failed to reach the technician they’d been working with. The city recently learned the technician left the firm.
“I am disappointed Nova did not proactively tell us the gentleman was leaving, especially considering the ongoing problems we’ve had,” Mayor Brian Marl said.
Council is now beginning to consider the cost of moving forward to an alternative to the malfunctioning filters. A preliminary estimate puts that cost over $1 million with a time frame of 12 to 14 months.