Onaway settles with Glawe; Wilcox still ongoing

ONAWAY – After settling with one of the contractors held responsible for a ferric chloride spill at Onaway’s wastewater treatment plant, the city has recouped the money it spent so far to clean up the spill.

Now, City Manager Joe Hefele is hoping to leverage some of the money to get a grant to continue the remediation process.

At their Wednesday meeting, city commissioners gave Hefele the go-ahead to apply for a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to help the city fund spill cleanup work. He’s planning to use $25,000 to $30,000 remaining from a settlement with contractor Glawe, Inc., as a matching portion for the grant.

“This is a problem that we have that needs to be addressed,” he said. “We need to get to the end of this, and this could be dollars that help us do this without any consideration of a rate increase to help us replace (repairs and replacement) dollars.”

Onaway filed suit against Glawe and Wilcox Professional Services after the city discovered a ferric chloride spill at the wastewater treatment plant in 2010, according to a press release from the city. A pipe carrying ferric chloride between the treatment plant building and one of its lagoons had been cut, releasing as much as 9,000 gallons of the toxic and corrosive substance into the soil. City officials contended the pipe had been cut some time during the plant’s construction in 2003 and 2005.

In April 2012, District Court Judge Donald McLennan ruled Glawe and Wilcox were responsible for the spill and ordered the parties to meet with the city and a mediator to work out the damages.

Glawe settled for $287,500 in July 2012, Hefele said. The money will be used to recoup spill cleanup costs taken from the wastewater treatment plant’s repair and replacement fund, along with the bond reserve fund, Hefele said. The city agreed with the USDA to replace the money if it was successful in its suit. The money came from the $30,000 per year the city is required to set aside for repairs or replacements at the wastewater treatment plant, and $13,900 per year for 10 years for the bond reserve fund.

Peter Worden, Glawe’s attorney, said he’s sure both sides were glad to resolve their differences and reach an agreement.

“As a result of that meeting, Glawe and the city were able to resolve their differences and agree to the terms of a resolution,” he said.

The lawsuit against Wilcox is still ongoing, Hefele said. John Mooney, an attorney who represented the company, was unavailable for comment.

So far, the soil around the leak has been removed and the city is still installing monitoring wells, Hefele said. Along with getting guidance from Saggaser & Associates, the city is working with the Department of Environmental Quality to deal with the spill’s aftermath.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.