Officials: COVID slowed Ridgefield sewer project
RIDGEFIELD — The town’s $48 million sewer project is among the many endeavors slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 is having an effect as far as schedule. COVID is slowing up our ability to get the components,” said Jon Pearson, of AECOM, the engineering firm that designed and is overseeing the project.
Spectraserve is the lead construction contractor on the project, but its work is partly dependent on getting needed components and equipment through various supply chains.
“They’ve put us on notice they’re seeing effects,” Pearson said.
“...I think we will be seeing a time extension request related to the impact of COVID.”
Pearson addressed the Thursday meeting of the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA), the town agency in charge of the sewer renovation project.
“Do we have a mechanism in the contract that addresses timing issues?” Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark asked. “Is COVID considered an act of god?”
Kozlark is the Board of Selectmen’s representative to the Water Pollution Control Authority, having volunteered for the position to lighten First Selectman Rudy Marconi’s workload when he returned after suffering from COVID-19 in the spring.
“If this is considered an epidemic, or act of god, the documents do address that,” Pearson said. “They are entitled to additional time, but not additional compensation is what the documents say.”
The sewer project has two parts, the reconstruction of the treatment plant off South Street — which is underway — and the closure of the smaller sewage treatment plant off Route 7 near its intersection with Route 35, and the laying of a pipeline to transport that smaller Sewer District 2 wastewater to the District 1 treatment plant off South Street.
A week’s halt
The South Street construction was halted for a time after a worker tested positive for COVID-19 — although the daily operations of the treatment plant continued.
“They immediately shut down the job and ordered all staff to be tested. Nobody but the one individual tested positive,” Pearson said. “…They lost about a week.”
Work was restarted on Aug. 31.
“They’re back at it, full force,” Pearson said.
The contractor has adopted new protocols for COVID.
“There’s a heightened awareness now to catch it early on,” Pearson said.
“Hopefully, that is behind us.”
Can the contractors accelerate the timetable to make up for the lost week and any additional time that may result from slow-downs in the supply chain?
“We’re posing that question,” Pearson said.
The other aspect of the project — a pump station and three miles of “forced main” pipeline to get sewage from the routes 7 and 35 area to South Street for treatment so the smaller sewer plant off Route 7 can be closed — is still in the stage of acquiring easements. There are a couple of property owners still in negotiation with the town.
“Discussions with both property owners are ongoing and moving in the right direction, so that’s good news,” Pearson said.
He also said talks had started with the school system’s transportation manager, Rick Lupinacci, over how the pipeline construction might affect the bus operations.
Lupinacci had said, “This seems like something that should be workable,” but said more time was needed to study the plans, Pearson said.
There’s one area — about 1,500 feet along Farmingville Road — where work may have to be done at night, Pearson said.
“Everything else looks like it may be accommodated with a detour,” he said.
But the detour plans hadn’t been reviewed yet by Mr. Lupinacci, the school bus coordinator, he added.
Engineering and construction plans for this portion of the project need to be approved by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and Pearson said the engineers were working to finalize documents to submit to the environmental regulators.
“They require a minimum of three-months review period,” he said.
That aspect of the project would then have to be put out to bid, and the bids reviewed and a contractor chosen.
“We anticipate a contract award in June next year,” he said.
If that happens on time, he said, the construction period would be expected to run until September 2022.
“I think we’re on track to where we expected to be,” Pearson said.
“The goal is to finish the force main and pump station at the same time the South Street plant is finished.”