Lebanon to sue CH2M Hill over ‘cannibal system’ recommendation

By Sean C. Morgan

Lebanon Local

The Lebanon City Council voted Thursday afternoon, Aug. 29, to pursue all legal remedies against CH2M Hill over its recommendation to use a “cannibal system” to handle solid waste left over from the wastewater treatment process.

The city is likely to soon file a complaint against CH2M Hill in Linn County Circuit Court, according to attorney Kerry Shepherd of the Portland law firm Markowitz Herbold PC. “The bottom line in summary is the city had a long-standing, trusting relationship with CH2M Hill and OME.”

CH2M Hill recommended and OMI supported the use of the cannibal system in 2007.

The system “simply has not worked as our engineers told us it would,” Shepherd said. The city has made extraordinary efforts to resolve things with CH2M Hill and OMI over the past 18 months. The city and the firm were set for mediation in March.

CH2M Hill canceled that meeting and rescheduled for Aug. 28, Shepherd said, and again CH2M Hill canceled the mediation.

At that point, the City Council didn’t have much of a choice but to move forward, Shepherd said.

He expects to file the complaint soon but did not specify a date.

The City of Albany has filed a similar lawsuit against CH2M Hill. According to the Albany complaint, Siemens Industry, Inc., guaranteed that its Cannibal System would reduce the amount of solids left over from wastewater treatment by 90 percent compared to conventional waste treatment systems, resulting in millions of dollars of savings on handling and disposing of the solid waste.

Albany’s plant delivered no better than a 7-percent reduction in annual biosolids yield, according to the complaint, more than 830 percent more solids than promised.

The complaint involves CH2M Hill and OMI, which operated the treatment plant as a subsidiary of CH2M Hill, as well as Jacobs Engineering, which purchased CH2M Hill and OMI in 2017 and now operates the treatment plant.