Construction of new sewer lines near Fort River Caves and along Hwy. 260 has come to a halt for a second time.
The project had temporarily been shut down by an order from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, after officials discovered that the Camp Verde Sanitary District had failed to obtain the proper construction permits before breaking ground on the project last summer.
The district thought that the order allowed work to continue for 30 days while it could organize a response, but ADEQ officials let the district know, in no uncertain terms last week, that that’s not the case.
“We’re doing everything we can to make ADEQ happy,” said Rob Witt, sanitary district board chairman.
The stop-work order puts the project in jeopardy, Witt said, including funding.
“No bank is going to pay for a project that doesn’t have everything in order,” Witt said. “We’ve got a lot of things to fix.”
The stop-work order only affects the new collection lines; work continues on the new treatment plant across the Verde River near Hwy. 260.
The district is working rapidly to get its paperwork in order, Witt said. The district could be fined $25,000 a day going back to when construction on the lines started, if it can’t get everything in order.
The district’s willingness to work with ADEQ can go a long way in how the state will react, ADEQ spokesman Mark Shaffer said. It’s different from dealing with a private company, Shaffer said; ADEQ takes special considerations knowing that district taxpayers would ultimately be responsible for any fines.
As it is, the shutdown is expected to cost the district at least $100,000, Witt said.
There’s still a matter of who’s responsible for failing to obtain the proper permits. Witt said that the former board under Chairman Suzy Burnside failed to obtain the permit.
There had been a permit in place, but it expired in October 2006. The new district board took office in early 2007, and Witt said it was assumed that all the permits were in order.
Burnside defended herself in a district meeting last week, arguing that it had been the current board’s responsibility to make sure the proper permits were in place.
“Someone should have followed a checklist,” Burnside said.
Witt said that while Burnside had “worked her head off” to get the project rolling, she failed to make sure all the proper paperwork was in place.
Burnside maintains she left the sanitary district board with everything in proper standing, and that the current board was responsible for making sure everything was in place before breaking ground.
The project had originally gone out to bid in 2004, but all of the bids were rejected because of the proposed cost of the new wastewater treatment plant, wrote Eric Lauren, project manager for Coe and Van Loo, one of the construction companies working for the district.
Coe and Van Loo submitted documentation that the company was to assume the CVSD had everything in order with ADEQ when they agreed to take on the job in 2005, and that they had been actively discouraged from talking with ADEQ or any other agency about the project.
Regardless of who is ultimately to blame, Witt said the district has no plans to pursue legal action against Burnside or the former board.
Witt said that while the district reserves the right to take future legal action, he doesn’t feel that much good would come from it.
“We need to move forward,” Witt said.