Originally created 02/08/00

School backs out of probe with county

ATHENS, Ga. -- Two months after vowing to unite in an independent investigation into what caused Sanford Stadium's field to become saturated with foul-smelling liquid last August, Athens-Clarke County and the University of Georgia have parted ways in the matter.

Just days after the county and university agreed Dec. 9 to co-sponsor the investigation by an Atlanta-based engineering firm and split the $20,000 cost, the university backed out of the agreement.

University officials now say the school's original agreement to co-sponsor a study with the county is invalid because it was made by a representative of the UGA Athletic Department -- not the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, which owns Sanford Stadium.

University spokesman Tom Jackson said Friday that the school hired a consulting firm on its own to study the cause of the Sanford Stadium contamination, and the study showed that Athens-Clarke was responsible for the damage.

Athens-Clarke has decided to move forward with the original plan and has hired the Atlanta engineering firm CH2MHILL to investigate the sewer and drainage systems under Sanford Stadium.The county will foot the entire bill for the company's work.

"What we are going to do is the same, but we are paying the entire cost," said Gary Duck, Athens-Clarke Public Utilities director.

"Athens felt that it was still in our best interest at this point to get a third party to study this."

On Aug. 20, a university official noticed that portions of the football field at Sanford Stadium were soaked with what smelled like raw sewage. While temporary repairs were made to the field to prepare it for football season, the cause of the contamination remains unknown.

Because the university and the county both own sewer and drainage pipes that run under Sanford Stadium, the university and Athens-Clarke previously had agreed that an independent investigation would help determine what caused the contamination and who is responsible for repairing the damage, which so far has cost the school $100,000 in short-term field repairs and will likely require the entire field to be replaced at a cost in excess of $1 million, university officials said.


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