It may appear that a giant swimming pool is being installed behind Azalea Middle School, but the ever-widening hole is merely a continuation of the storm drain relocation project that has become a major headache for the Brookings-Harbor School District.

The district was hoping to finish the project, started several months ago by Smith River-based Morgan Construction, by Sept. 22.

It may not be finished for several more weeks, weather permitting, officials said.

This project has involved a lot of time and effort, not because its complex, but because its big, said District Superintendent Paul Prevenas.

During the first weeks of school, teachers at Azalea, who complained about how the dust and noise from the project was disrupting their classes, asked school officials to do something.

During their September meeting, school board members lamented the escalating costs and safety issues.

An old storm drain that had been placed underground decades ago needed to be removed because a new addition to Azalea was to be built directly over that location.

Morgan began excavating the site before the school year started, but ran into several problems right away, Prevenas said.

When the original storm drain was placed, low-quality landfill was used to fill in the ravine that ran through the school yard into the Fern gully, he said. Environmental engineers determined that the soil being dug up was not suitable to build on. The crew had to over-excavate to remove the organic material and bring in high quality soil and river rock to fill in the hole, he said.

The crews then struck an old section of clogged storm drain they were unaware of because accurate records were never kept on the exact placement of the old pipes, said Gene Peare, district maintenance supervisor.

The project was delayed while the crew dealt with the foul-smelling water that spewed forth from the old pipe, Peare said.

Causing further headaches and delays to progress was ground water that was not only seeping into the bottom of the pit, but seeping in from the sides, he said.

They (Morgan) found that there was more ground water than they expected, and the water table was higher than expected, Prevenas said. You cant put a building on footing other than solid, dry ground.

Prevenas said the crew needed to make the ditch saucer-shaped in order to deal with the seepage of ground water coming in from the sides.

The project became a little more complicated than just throwing in a bunch of rock, he said. And its covering a huge amount of square feet; this is not some bedroom addition were putting here, its a big school building.

Prevenas explained that the project would involve placing a drainage removal system of perforated pipes that would lead any ground water away from the new building. It all has to be engineered to allow the ground water to flow into these perforated drains naturally, by the force of gravity.

He said he feels the project is finally nearing completion and the land will be well settled and ready to build on when construction of the addition begins in spring.