Undocumented underground debris fields at a Gulf of Mexico port project are at the heart of a contractor’s nearly $50-million federal lawsuit against the Mississippi Development Authority and eight engineering and construction consultants.

Southern Industrial Contractors (SIC), Rayville, La., claims in its July 7 filing to the U.S. District Court for southern Mississippi that the defendants did not fulfill their responsibility to provide accurate construction documents for a $47-million transit shed at the Port of Gulfport awarded to the firm in 2014 as part of a federally backed program to restore the port after Hurricane Katrina damage.

SIC alleges that project documents failed to identify two large debris fields beneath the location where 2,700 concrete shed foundation pilings were to be driven. The contractor says it encountered the first field while excavating the site to the design depth of 21 ft, per drawings provided by consultant defendant Neel-Schaffer.

When pile-driving resumed following a 10-month delay to remove the first field, SIC says it uncovered additional subsurface debris. Following the defendants’ instructions, the contractor excavated the site to a depth of 35 ft, removing more than 2.3 million cu ft of material.

By failing to disclose the debris fields, SIC claims, the defendants made the transit shed “impossible to construct as designed” and “continually feigned ignorance” related to the debris fields’ existence and to SIC’s requests for compensation for additional work. SIC also claims its contract with the authority was “wrongfully terminated” in September 2016.

In its suit, SIC seeks more than $49 million for added costs, as well as loss of anticipated project profits and bonding capacity. No hearing date has been set. An authority spokesperson said the agency does not comment on pending litigation. None of the consultant defendants responded to requests for comment.