Junction City investigating water treatment contractor’s actions in plant failure
Boil Advisory remains in effect
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (WIBW) - Junction City officials are investigating why a contract employee working at the Water Treatment Facility switched from a backup generator back to Evergy power after historic winds knocked out power to the water treatment plant.
The move eventually sent 600,000 gallons of water into the basement.
Junction City Manager Allen Dinkel says as the conversation about water distribution following a widespread service outage after last week’s storm has become a major topic, many questions, concerns and accusations have arisen.
Dinkel said the City built the water plant in question over three decades ago according to designs by Black and Veatch Engineering. In 2014, he said the City started efforts to remodel and update the plant and chose HDR Engineering to design the new project.
In essence, he said the City and HDR completed phase 1 of the work on the new plant. However, phase 2 is currently underway with work being done by Crosslands Contractors out of Columbus, Kan.
For over 30 years, Dinkel said the City contracted with Veolia Water to operate the water and wastewater operations.
“We understand that everyone wants complete and thorough details as to what occurred,” Dinkel said. “At the same time, what occurred in its entirety may have contractual ramifications which could affect the City and its water customers.”
On Wednesday, Dec. 15, Dinkel said the electric power to the plant was interrupted. As of Dec. 21, the damage appears due to the storm. At that time, he said the plant was switched to an alternate power source, the natural gas-fired generator located at the plant.
Dinkel said the City installed the generator in 2018 as part of phase 1 improvements. Before that, there was no backup electric power source at the plant.
Early Thursday, Dec. 16, Dinkel said a Veolia employee decided to switch operation of the plant from the generator back to Evergy.
Junction City is continuing to investigate and evaluate why the switch was made and what the full ramifications of the events were.
“We are still investigating how this occurred,” said Dinkel. “Water entered the basement of the plant. In Phase I adequate warning systems were in place and according to HDR Engineering were working at the time of the water entering the basement; however, we are looking into the reactions and actions taken by Veolia and its staff to the alarms and water levels in the basement.”
Dinkel said Crossland Construction employees got to work immediately, including the electrical sub-contractor. He said local electricians and HDR Engineering staff, as well as City staff, got involved to address the damage.
According to Dinkel, the biggest issue addressed was the replacement of the damaged electrical system which was located in the basement. After the water was pumped from the building, electricians and others started to replace that infrastructure.
“Even though we endeavor to identify what all occurred, the first and primary task was to restore water service to the community,” Dinkel said. “Crossland, HDR, Dave’s Electric and City staff spent many hours in working to get this accomplished.”
Dinkel said workers continue to monitor water services provided to the community.
Junction City said it has reached out to Veolia Water and is in discussions with leadership about the incident.
“Even though Phase II is underway, HDR Will address, what, if any, other changes are needed,” said Dinkel. “The backup generation system was working and serving th community until the switch back to Evergy.”
Dinkel said all alarms and precautions to alert of water entering the facility were in place and operational at the time of the basement flood.
In a meeting Tuesday afternoon, Dinkel said new water samples will be taken and delivered for testing. However, the Boil Water Advisory remains in effect.
Residents of Geary Co. were asked to boil their water before consumption on Thursday, which lasted well into the weekend. On Sunday, most of Junction City had water services restored, however, the boil water advisory was still in effect on Monday and was expected to last through Tuesday.
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