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Landfill error cost the county $1 million

January 18, 2007|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A consultant's faulty plan for capping the Resh Road Landfill has delayed the project by about four years and resulted in the county losing a nearly $9 million, low-interest state loan, Chief Engineer Terry McGee said Wednesday.

The county also expects the project to cost approximately $1.1 million more than originally planned, he said.

Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr said in a telephone interview last week that the commissioners haven't decided whether to take legal action against Maryland Environmental Service (MES), the company that created the capping plan.

"If there is legal action, we'll discuss it after the project is finished," Barr said.

The county had a brief discussion at a commissioners meeting last week about whether to pursue legal action, but decided the matter should be discussed behind closed doors.

Capping includes constructing soil caps over landfill cells to meet environmental regulations.

MES is an independent state agency created by legislators in 1970 to work on projects with the goal of protecting the state's air, land and water resources, according to the MES Web site.

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MES did not return phone calls for comment placed on Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The county approached MES about preparing the closing and capping plan, in part, because of its ties with the Maryland Department of the Environment, which would be helpful for the landfill project, McGee said. The plan, for which the county paid $248,000, was for the project's first phase. The phase includes capping the landfill cells at the north side of Resh Road.

"So, we felt it was reasonable to go to them," McGee said. "Certainly, we're regretting that decision today."

Pavex Inc., which the county hired to do the closing and capping, discovered errors in the plan, county officials said. The plan didn't match the steepness of slopes in some parts of the landfill, county officials said. That resulted in changes to the capping plan and added to the cost, they said.

The error occurred when MES relied on aerial photography to create the plan without verifying the results at the site, McGee said.

"We think a lot of that has to do with the consultant," he said. MES "didn't do a good job of what the site looked like."

The county has approved two change orders to cover some of the additional costs; two more are pending. One of the change orders will involve the commissioners deciding whether Pavex will receive an additional $206,136 for the extra work.

The original contract with Pavex for the first phase was $3.7 million, but it has jumped to $4.8 million because of the problems, McGee said. The phase includes capping 24 acres. McGee told the commissioners last week that the county could end up with a $131,392 shortfall when final costs are in.

The first phase is scheduled for completion by the end of this month, about four years later than planned, he said.

The second phase, which will be completed at a later date, consists of capping the cells at the south side of Resh Road. That phase covers more acreage and is expected to cost more than the first phase, McGee said.

The county anticipated receiving $13.9 million in low-interest loans from the Maryland Department of the Environment for both phases. Of that amount, $5 million has been approved for the first phase, and the remainder, approximately $8.9 million, was to go to the second phase, McGee said.

Because of the delay, the state is no longer holding the $8.9 million for the second phase, McGee said.

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