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Washington State Supreme Court lets verdict stand for King County in Brightwater lawsuit

Summary

In a victory for King County ratepayers, the Washington State Supreme Court has declined to consider the lower court ruling upholding a judgment against a Brightwater tunneling contractor for $129.6 million in damages.

Story

The Washington State Supreme Court has declined to review a lower court ruling that affirmed King County is entitled to more than $129 million in damages from a tunneling contractor that defaulted on key contractual obligations as part of the Brightwater tunnel construction. This order confirms the previous judgment in King County Superior Court, which was upheld by the Washington State Court of Appeals.
 
“The ruling by the state Supreme Court is a victory for King County ratepayers,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We will use the funds we recovered on behalf of our customers to protect water quality throughout the region.”  

In December 2012, a jury awarded King County $155.8 million in damages after finding Brightwater tunneling contractor Vinci Construction Grands Projets/Parsons RCI/Frontier-Kemper (VPFK) defaulted on key contractual obligations. The judgment was adjusted to $129.6 million to reflect the jury’s award of $26.2 million to the contractor.

The Supreme Court has accepted review of a separate petition filed by the performance bond surety providers that appeals the award of more than $15 million for legal fees to King County.

VPFK was awarded the $212 million construction contract to build the two central Brightwater conveyance tunnels in 2006. It was the second of four Brightwater construction contracts to build a 13-mile tunnel to carry treated wastewater from the treatment plant north of Woodinville to a deep-water marine outfall in Puget Sound.

Two tunneling machines required extensive repairs that threatened to delay the completion of Brightwater’s 13-mile conveyance tunnel by up to three years. Though VPFK repaired one machine and completed a 2.2-mile tunnel drive between Kenmore and Bothell in 2011, the County could not accept the lengthy delay and additional cost the contractor proposed for the repair of the second machine to complete tunneling.

Joint venture contractor Jay Dee/Coluccio completed mining on the final 1.9-mile section of Brightwater tunnel in August 2011.

The tunnel has been in full operation for nearly four years, conveying highly treated effluent from the Brightwater Treatment Plant north of Woodinville to a 600-foot-deep marine outfall in Puget Sound a mile off of Point Wells.

Additional information about the Brightwater project is available at http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/wtd/Newsroom/ReportersToolkit.aspx.

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People enjoy clean water and a healthy environment because of King County's wastewater treatment program. The county’s Wastewater Treatment Division protects public health and water quality by serving 17 cities, 17 local sewer districts and more than 1.7 million residents in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. Formerly called Metro, the regional clean-water agency now operated by King County has been preventing water pollution for nearly 50 years.