The Charleston Sanitary Board will get more than $2.6 million from a company it had hired to make compost out of yard waste and sewage sludge generated in the city.
A ruling by Kanawha Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr. said O’Brien & Gere Engineers, based in New York, failed to design and build the composting facility as it promised.
The Charleston Gazette reported that the city planned to sell the compost generated by the new facility. But a lawsuit contends the facility that began operating in 1998 never worked properly.
The Charleston Sanitary Board filed its lawsuit in 2000, seeking $1.5 million in damages.
Zakaib awarded the board $1.57 million in damages and $1.06 million in interest.
The city paid for “an undersized composting plant that could not make compost until the (Sanitary) Board spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pre-treating the discharges of the West Virginia American Water Company to remove inert solids,” Zakaib wrote.
The constant changes in project managers made by O’Brien and Gere in the late 1990s contributed to design and construction problems, Zakaib wrote.
The new facility was built after new federal and state regulations in the early 1990s required the city to build more environmentally-safe ways of disposing of sewage sludge and yard waste.
The new facility was built in Copenhaver Park, near former sludge retention areas. OBG projected the cost of the new system to be more than $5.5 million.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said the city lost $7.5 million from the whole project, including payments for engineering and designing a facility that failed to ever work properly.
O’Brien and Gere also failed to test and oversee the new composting facility properly during its design and construction.
“Nothing was done to insure that the factory personnel operated the equipment in the same manner as Board employees would have to operate the equipment,” Zakaib wrote.
Zakaib’s opinion concluded that the engineering company breached its contract with the sanitary board.
The judge said O’Brien and Gere was guilty of “professional negligence” for failing “to do that which an engineer of ordinary prudence and in the exercise of ordinary care would do under the same or similar circumstances.”