Cobb sues contractor for 2018 water system failure

Credit: Cobb County Government

Credit: Cobb County Government

Contractor says more analysis needed to determine cause of massive sewage spill

Cobb County has filed a lawsuit against a contractor for the water system failure that caused a “massive and catastrophic” overflow of 113 million gallons of rainwater and wastewater in 2018, at the South Cobb Water Reclamation Facility.

The county is seeking a minimum of $39 million in the suit for the cleanup, repairs and damages after other attempts to resolve the issue have been unsuccessful, the lawsuit says. It took the county several months to repair the facility.

“This has been a long and bizarre legal journey,” said Ross Cavitt, the county spokesman. “Everybody’s pointing fingers at everybody else.”

J.F. Shea Construction and Traylor Brothers are separate companies that formed Shea-Traylor, a joint venture that was hired by the county in 2008 for a $305 million contract to expand the water facility. The project was the largest capital improvement wastewater project the county had ever undertaken and was completed in February 2018, the lawsuit says.

That same year, the system failure in December in the portion of the facility the contractor built caused the spill, and the contractors made no effort to help or assume responsibility for it, according to the lawsuit.

Shea-Traylor issued a statement via its attorney John Mastin in response to the lawsuit that says there is nothing that indicates its work is what caused the accident.

“This is a complex engineering design and construction matter that requires further analysis to determine the actual cause of the flooding during a severe rainstorm, including the possibility of the county’s own design errors and operational failures,” the contractor’s statement says.

An unusually high amount of rainfall hit metro Atlanta for several days at that time, exacerbating flooding and the aftermath of the spill. Some of the water from the spill flowed into Nickajack Creek or through manhole covers and flooded a nearby street which had to be closed for several days while crews worked to pump the water off the road, the AJC previously reported.

The county hired a firm to investigate the incident, which determined the “damage was due directly to the defendant’s failure” and “defective” welding work that did not meet industry standards, the lawsuit says.

The civil case was assigned to Cobb County Superior Court Chief Judge Gregory Poole.