A concrete construction firm is suing Savannah River Nuclear Solutions for nearly $20 million in damages that it alleges are related to design changes made for a facility at the Savannah River Site.

Baker Concrete Construction Inc. filed a civil complaint dated June 6 that alleges SRNS misled the firm about the status of design completion on a $90 million plutonium and uranium waste-disposal project underway.

In the complaint, Baker claims that it bid and won a fixed-price contract of $91.5 million, which was reduced because of SRNS' “assurances and representations that the Project's design was advanced.” The firm further claims that SRNS promised it that more than 98 percent of the drawings released to the contractor were “accurate, significantly complete, sufficient and 'issued for construction.'”

Baker alleges multiple cases of fraud in its complaint, and the complaint states that SRNS “knowingly released inadequate and outdated drawings, plans and specifications” for the bid.

A spokeswoman for SRNS declined to comment for this story.

The Waste Solidification Building – the facility at the heart of the lawsuit – is a 33,000-square-foot concrete structure meant to treat transuranic and low-level radioactive wastes from other site facilities that dispose of weapons-grade plutonium and surplus uranium.

The project was originally slated for completion by July 2012, according to the complaint. The firm claims that the design changes by SRNS have been ongoing since July 2009, and have delayed the project's duration by at least 15 months.

“The Project's design changes became a relentless, never-ending and all-encompassing series of 'wall to wall' changes,” the complaint stated. “Moreover, these myriad design changes have never ended, despite SRNS' blatant and repeated misrepresentations that they were coming to an end,” the contractor states in the complaint.

According to the complaint, a number of project directors at SRNS “openly admitted to Baker that given the level of change in the SRNS design, the Baker Subcontract should have been a cost reimbursable rather than a fixed price contract.”

“For over a year, Baker Concrete Construction Inc. made numerous good faith efforts to resolve its payment disputes with SRNS related to the construction of the Waste Solidification Building Project,” Baker spokesman Todd Wilkowski said in a statement on Thursday. “Unfortunately, those attempts have proved unsuccessful, thereby necessitating Baker taking the unusual step to file suit against a client to recoup significant sums owed it and its subcontractors.”

Wilkowski added that Baker “remains committed to working with SRNS to resolve these disputes in a timely and fair manner.”

SRNS has 30 days from the day the complaint was filed to respond to Baker Concrete Construction Inc.

Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.