The winning bid for one of the largest portions of the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project may be disallowed pending the results of a state investigation.

Last week, it was announced that the Massachusetts attorney general and the state's Ethics Commission is investigating the relationship between consultant Edward D. Ritchie and the engineering firm of Guy Atkinson Co.

Although state officials would not comment on the ongoing investigation, several sources said the inquiry into the firm deals with the possible receipt of inside information.

Atkinson was part of a four-firm consortium that won the bid for the construction of the northbound lanes of the Central Artery. The firms' winning bid was for $378 million, or about $50 million below the estimated cost.

The probe into the bid stems from the fact that in February, Ritchie was hired by Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff to help estimate the cost of construction of another portion of the $8 billion project.

Bechtel/Parsons acts as the engineering consultant for the entire project.

After Ritchie left Bechtel, he was hired by Guy Atkinson as a consultant.

Although the firm has removed itself from the bidding, the state has not decided whether or not to award the bid to the remaining three firms in the group because of the possible information the group received from Ritchie.

Atkinson and the three other firms -- Kiewit Construction Co., Jay Cashman Inc., and Perini Corp. -- won another large contract for the project. The firms are currently working on the $179 million South Boston entrance for the Third Harbor tunnel.

It is unclear whether the delay of the bid will slow down construction of the roadway.

The Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ruled last week against an environmental group's attempt to block the construction of a waste-water tunnel.

The tunnel, which is being built by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, would bring treated wastewater 9.5 miles into the ocean after it has been processed.

The environmental group, called Stop The Outfall Pipe Inc., said that a state law prohibits the construction of the pipe. The group said that when the state legislature passed the Ocean Protection Act in the mid-1980s, it mandated that the governmerit or any entity could not pump unclean water into a protected fishery.

But according to the court's decision, the law said wastewater could not be pumped directly into a protected area, and in this case, the court ruled, the water is not being pumped into protected areas.

The group, which is composed mostly of members of the fishing community, said they fear the water will damage fishing throughout the state.

The tunnel is expected to be completed in 1997. When done, it is estimated that it will carry as much as 400 million gallons of wastewater a day, after it has been treated in the Deer Island Sewage Treatment plant.

The plant is being constructed with the proceeds of MWRA revenue bond sales.

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