Largo sues engineering firm over defective design at wastewater plant

The city’s Wastewater Reclamation Facility has seen plenty of changes in the past few years, including the addition of a Disinfection and Effluent Pumping project, shown at bottom center while it was still under construction. City engineers found that the project, which was completed in April 2018 in an effort to provide a more efficient disinfection process and increased pumping capacity, was littered with design flaws. The city is now suing the engineering firm that designed it for failing to fix the problems.

LARGO — The city of Largo is suing an engineering firm for failing to properly fix problems at the Largo Wastewater Reclamation Facility.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 1, charges that the firm Greeley-Hansen failed to complete its contract after its proposed designs proved defective. The city and the engineering firm, which has offices in Tampa, could not agree on which party should pay the cost of additional repairs.

The city contracted with Greeley-Hansen in 2008 for $4 million to provide engineering services at the reclamation facility after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection found problems with sewer overflows and disinfection byproducts at the plant.

In 2011, the engineering firm agreed to plan and design systems to reduce the amount of disinfection byproducts discharged to local waters and to improve the capacity of the transfer pump station.

Construction of the $19.5 million Disinfection and Effluent Pumping project was completed in April 2018.

Once placed in operation, however, several problems developed that were not uncovered during pre-construction testing, Engineering Services officials said in April 2019.

The disinfection design failed to reduce the amount of unwanted byproducts, instead creating a “slime-like buildup” on the disinfection tank. In addition, the pumps designed for the pump station were “excessively oversized and operated well beyond their optimized ranges,” the suit charges.

After a year of trying, the acid pumping systems wouldn’t work, leading the city to pay $200,000 to a new consultant to find out what went wrong and create alternatives.

Greeley-Hansen proposed fixes to both problems, the city says, but “denied any responsibility for the work that would be necessary to determine the appropriate remedy.” The engineering firm indicated the city would be responsible for paying for the corrective work. The city had to hire another engineer to redesign and reconfigure the solution to the problems.

The resulting delays in rectifying the problems at the wastewater plant also resulted in the city incurring fines from FDEP.

The city seeks more than $100,000 in monetary damages.