Contractor walks off Martin Slough project; company officials cite impasse with city

Apex Directional Drilling, the company hired by the city of Eureka to provide drilling services for the Martin Slough Force Main project, has walked away from the job, officials said Thursday.

The company claims the soil at the Pine Hill worksite -- sand -- is different from the type listed in the bid package and the engineering firm involved in the project "improperly designed the drill path."

"We are at an impasse," said Harland Law Firm attorney John Lopez, who represents Apex Directional Drilling. "At this point, we've made a proposal to get this thing going, and that was not accepted. We had little option but to take our equipment off the site."

Interim City Manager Mike Knight said the city believes the project was in order.

"We do not agree in any way, shape or form that there was an improper design," Knight said.

Lopez said the situation boils down to a soils report that states the company would be working in what's called a Hookton formation, which is a fairly stable, more solid type of substance than sand.

"As it turns out, what we got was sand, sand and more sand," he said. "It turns out this entire area is one big sand hill, which makes it extremely difficult to keep the bore open."

Public Works Director Bruce Young said the situation will not derail the multi-million dollar project designed to deliver wastewater to the Elk River Waste Water Treatment Plant, but declined to discuss specifics.

"While it's a bump in the road, we have no doubt we'll get this completed, and it's just unfortunate that we have to deal with this," Young said. "There is no evidence that supports their claims."

In a March 12 letter to the city, the company claims an engineering firm hired by Eureka "improperly designed the drill path and took undue risk by violating all acceptable industry standards."

Apex President Mike Lachner said the company tried different techniques, such as changing the drill path and tools used, but the soil wasn't resistant enough. He added the company tried bringing the issue to the city's attention many times, but the onsite geologist disagreed, repeatedly saying the soil was Hookton formation.

"We've exhausted our options in trying to explain what we're actually in," Lachner said. "The proof's right there in the ground."

Apex is now "preparing for all eventualities," including possible litigation, Lopez said.

"It's certainly not going to stand where it is, I'm sure," he said. "It depends on what happens."

Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or lrodriguez@times-standard.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.

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