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Contractor stops working on phase of Martin Slough Interceptor Project in Eureka

EUREKA- A major improvement project to the City of Eureka’s Waste Water Treatment System has been halted. 

The planning stages for the Martin Slough Interceptor Project began about 25 years ago.  Construction on the project began over two years ago.  The project is designed to create a pipeline for sewage to get to the water treatment plant in a more direct way.  “Phase 3A” of the project began last July, after Apex Directional Drilling LLC was awarded the bid for it.  Now, Apex has stopped working on “Phase 3A” because they say the material they are drilling through is mostly sand, and not the stable solid clay material they were told they were going to encounter.

Sewage in the southern end of Eureka used to have to be pumped to the north end of town before being transported to the Greater Eureka Area Water Treatment Plant, which is also in the southern end of town.  The goal of the Martin Slough Interceptor Project is to bring sewage from the south part of Eureka straight to the plant with the use of a pipeline.

"It's probably the biggest sewer improvement project in the greater eureka area since the building of our waste water treatment plant in the early 80's," said Bruce Young, the Public Works Director for the City of Eureka.

Eureka city officials say the original system would cost the city twice as much over the next 50 years than if they finished the project.  Now, one of the phases of the project has been halted, because Apex Directional Drilling LLC, the contractor on the phase, says they came across sand in their drilling, and not the hard and stable Hookton formation they were told would be there by Selvage, Heber, Nelson Consulting Engineers and Geologists, Inc., the engineering consultants that completed the environmental evaluation for the City of Eureka before the Martin Slough Interceptor Project began.

"If you hit sand, then you hit that clay material, then you hit a little bit of sand, that really isn't the big problem.  The problem is you keep going forward and you're hitting nothing but sand," said John Lopez, an attorney representing Apex.

Lopez says the drilling hole they made collapsed because they could not install the pipeline casing quick enough since it was too hard to control the directional drilling.  He says Apex tried to inform SHN of the problem.  Eureka city officials say SHN maintains that the area is mainly Hookton formation, and not sand.

"We as a city, in hiring a consultant, a consultant that has experience, has professionals, we lean on them to provide the information necessary to move forward with this.  What we are hearing from the consultant now is they stand by that information," said Young.

Now Apex is removing equipment from the site.  They say they have also submitted a new proposal for the best opportunity they have for finishing the project.  The City of Eureka has not accepted that proposal.

"My clients are willing to take on a substantial part of that, I think it was 50 percent of that, which is a really, really generous offer by them. There are provisions for the city to deal with these cost overruns but for some reason, we're not getting the response that we believe would be appropriate in this instance," said Lopez.

"There were certain conditions that were being required of the city that we were not willing to meet," Young said.

Eureka city officials say the entire Martin Slough Interceptor Project is definitely going to be completed at some point.

"Apex, by their choice, abandoned the job.  I don't know but typically that means we move on," said Young.

The cost of the entire project is about $23 million.  The cost of “Phase 3A “of the Martin Slough Interceptor Project is more than $3.5 million.