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RO plant set for $1 million in repairs

By Staff | May 5, 2017

Exposure to the sun may have contributed to a major component failure at the North Reverse Osmosis water plant, resulting in the need to replace all four “busways” at a cost of nearly $1 million.

The tally is nearly $200,000 less than it could have been and the expenditure is needed to prevent a major plant emergency similar to one experienced at the city facility in 2014.

Cape Coral City Council on Monday awarded the work to Cogburn Brothers of Jacksonville, the lowest and only responsive responsible bidder, officials said.

The consent agenda resolution states the company will provide construction services for modifications to the power distribution system at the plant for $898,500 plus a 10 percent contingency of $89,850 for a total of $988,350.

A small portion will be reimbursed through a warranty. The rest of the money will come from the city’s Water and Sewer Fund.

At Monday’s meeting, Public Utilities Director Jeff Pearson said the busway’s power run for the plant failed and needs to be replaced before complete failure.

In a memo last month, Pearson told City Manager John Szerlag that a catastrophic failure to one of the busways in October 2014 resulted in a fire at the plant. Following quick repairs, an inspection of the other three busways showed the need for replacement as soon as possible.

Further, the report said the overhead exterior busway should be replaced with underground conduit and cable encased in concrete, which would not only be more resilient, but also less expensive.

Pearson said he wasn’t sure if the power run had a design flaw, but it was on an elevated busway area and it got hot while sitting in the sun. He said this time, the power run won’t be exposed to the elements.

“There were also plugs that drain off water and we think water got in there as well and was not draining off properly and it failed,” said Pearson when pressed for an explanation by Councilmember Richard Leon. “It’s very important that we keep water being produced at the facility.”

Councilmember Rick Williams theorized the issue wasn’t so much the sun, but rather internally generated heat by resistance due to a bad connection. He said he hoped Cogburn would fix the problem.

Pearson also said the city did some value engineering and was able to reduce the original bid amount by almost 20 percent, adding he was confident Cogburn will do a good job on the project.

The facility was built after the city’s original plant, the Southwest Reverse Osmosis Plant, was projected to max out during the housing boom. The city started planning for expansion in 2005.

An expansion of the Southwest plant increased capacity there. The new 12 MGD North RO Plant was completed and online in March 2010.

The plants process the city’s potable water supply drawn from the Upper Floridan Aquifer via 55 wells divided among two well fields.