As engineering firm McKim and Creed continues its design work on the city’s Lift Station 87 project, issues with the previous engineering continue to emerge.
The Lift Station 87 structure is in place at 1900 Mound St., but the city fired the previous engineering firm after it failed to reroute sewage to the new facility from Lift Station 7, located at 935 Pomelo Ave. McKim and Creed has worked on plans to reroute wastewater to the new lift station, and in the process, it has encountered new problems at Lift Station 87.
The biggest obstacle previous engineering firm AECOM faced was microtunneling beneath the Hudson Bayou to install pipes that direct sewage to the new lift station. McKim and Creed believes it has determined the proper depth for microtunneling beneath the bayou, but because that depth is lower than AECOM originally estimated, modifications will have to take place at the lift station itself, as well.
Most significantly, the wet well — where the sewage is first received at the lift station — has to be lowered 11 feet. This requires the demolition of what’s already in place, according to city Utilities Director Mitt Tidwell. Other interior changes — such as the installation of two new backup pumps to provide emergency power to the lift station — have also been recommended based on McKim and Creed’s recent work.
“We’re learning some things and we’re having to make some modifications,” Tidwell said.
Commissioner Paul Caragiulo, who attended a public meeting regarding the project Monday, said he was concerned about the cost of the work necessary at the new lift station site. Tidwell estimated the construction costs could cost from $6 million to $12 million, which would place the overall price tag on the project between $17 million and $24 million.
Based on his understanding of the amount of work necessary inside of the lift station — and on the possibility of further problems emerging — Caragiulo wondered whether even the high end of those estimates could be optimistic.
“They have to tear almost everything they’ve done out of there,” Caragiulo said. “They basically have to rip the entire lift station out and then rebuild the whole thing again.”
McKim and Creed Project Manager Robert Garland said only one of four underground structures — the influent structure, where the wet well is located — would have to be completely overhauled.
“The rest we’re going to renovate,” Garland said. “The rest of the structures, we’re planning on reusing the existing structures.”
At Monday’s meeting, a resident at the nearby Central Park II condominiums asked Project Manager Steve Topovski whether the city has considered different sites for the lift station. Topovski said the city has not yet looked at any other sites, but that might be worth discussing.
“Maybe we at least take a look,” Topovski said. “Once we go down that road, there are time implications versus cost implications.”
Even considering the design changes, Garland said the project should only be delayed a few weeks. The expected completion date has been moved from November 2015 to January 2016. Garland said he could not give an up-to-date price estimate for the project at this point.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a consent order that requires issues with the city’s wastewater system — particularly the aging infrastructure at Lift Station 7, which Lift Station 87 will replace — to be addressed by April 2016. Tidwell said he has thought about examining other sites, but considering that deadline, the city would most likely opt to continue at the current location.
“You’d have to start over on design to a large extent, plus you’d have to acquire property,” Tidwell said. “It’d very much jeopardize achieving that date.”
That consent order was issued June 2006, and required the city to address wastewater collection issues by 2011. As problems with Lift Station 87 arose, the consent order was amended and the deadline pushed back — first in 2009, then again in 2011 and 2013.
Caragiulo believes that the consent order is a secondary concern for city administration. The contentious original process of selecting a site for the new lift station and the negative optics associated with changing locations at this point in the project make a new lift station site unrealistic, he said — even if it were the best option.
“The political forces demand that another site isn’t identified,” Caragiulo said. “They’d rather spend $30 million to have a couple of people save face.”
City staff said they would continue to inform the public about the situation at the lift station as engineering continues and the project evolves.
“We’re working as transparently as possible to let people know where we are, let you know what we do know and the other issues we may be investigating,” Topovski said. “We’re being as open, forthright and outright as we can.”
Contact David Conway at [email protected]