"They [TBW] want this to be an engineering problem," Connolly says, "because [then] it affects the entire perimeter of the reservoir, and they collect 10 times what it would cost to take care of two small areas."
The engineer notes that Florida sets no limit on liability for designers. TBW settled with its contractor and construction manager for a total of $6.75 million. Both firms were included in the project's owner-controlled insurance plan. "They clearly have somebody else's insurance to go after," alleges Connolly.
Jon Kennedy, TBW's reservoir renovation project manager, counters that cracking is much more extensive than HDR admits and that the engineer is entirely to blame.
"We've got cracking over two-thirds of the surface of this thing," he says. "We can't use this facility at its original intended capacity of flow rate until we get a permanent solution to this cracking."
Connolly acknowledges HDR has responsibility. "We've told TBW from Day One that we're going to be culpable, but let's find out what the real problem is," Connolly says. "TBW doesn't want to know the real [cause], because they see us as a checkbook to help fund their next project."
Barnard Construction Co., Bozeman, Mont., completed construction of the reservoir in March 2005, and the facility came on line in 2006. For a while, TBW, HDR and Barnard stood as proud partners of the new facility.
"It was a good job right after it was put into operation," says Kevin Ellerton, who was Barnard's construction manager and is now the firm's business development manager for dams and hydroelectric projects. "It was unfortunate what happened."
In 1998, Tampa Bay Water hired HDR not only as engineer-of-record but also to provide site selection, soil testing and some construction oversight.
Built in Lithia, the reservoir is approximately two miles long, a mile wide and five miles in circumference—covering about 1,100 acres, according to TBW. The earthen embankment ranges from 32 ft to 75 ft in height and measures about 300 ft wide at its base.
Utility officials were still publicly praising the reservoir in 2007, nearly two years into its operation. That year, the region suffered significant drought, and the new reservoir proved its value.
The utility's then-director of operations, Ken Herd, told ENR Southeast, "The reservoir was extraordinary this year. It performed just as expected and provided us with surface water while we were experiencing a lack of rainfall" (Southeast Construction, ">11/07).