In a recent filing with the federal district court, the city of Akron reported that it has spent more than $650 million in capital costs for the design and construction of the combined sewer overhaul. The city noted that 65 percent of the required projects have been completed. Another 27 percent are in the works. So there is an end in sight to the $1.2 billion project, or when the city and region will benefit fully from the massive upgrade, notably, the Cuyahoga River and related waterways in much better condition as a result.

There has been one hiccup, involving the construction of the giant interceptor tunnel, running north and south under downtown. The original plan called for completion by the end of last year. Now the date has been pushed back at least 10 months. As it is, that delay was the subject of the recent filings with the court.

Judge John Adams wanted to know more about what happened to put the city behind. He oversees the consent decree involving Akron and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, with state regulators also playing a role. More, his inquiry coincided with the city seeking his approval of an amendment to the decree, allowing for less expensive yet effective green alternative approaches to improving the sewer system.

The city estimates savings of $70 million through this second amendment. An earlier amendment generated $30 million in savings.

Those are small sums compared to the overall expense of the project. Yet the effort goes to the pledge of Akron officials to do all they can to reduce the cost in the wake of sharp increases in sewer rates, customers footing the bill almost entirely. In addition, such alternatives are smart in their reliance on more natural remedies. The city bolsters its case in noting the support of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

A worry is that the judge will let his disappointment with the tunnel delay get in the way of approving the new amendment. The concern isn’t misplaced. If the judge deserves credit for pushing the parties to do better in the consent decree, especially with the park as a factor, he also has an established record of lacking judicial temperament. He has been removed from cases for showing bias, including the prolonged lawsuit involving the city and its firefighters. He has been erratic, antagonistic and mean. At times, he seems to imagine something sinister at play and then wastes time and causes injury pursuing what isn’t there.

Ideally, judges resolve conflicts. Judge Adams sparks them.

Why is the tunnel project behind schedule? It didn’t help that the huge boring machine arrived nine months later than expected. Or that the machine struggled with the composition of the earth, from soil to rock. For their part, the city and the federal EPA have followed the steps set forth in the consent decree for handling delays. There likely will be a legal scrap over the projected $1.3 million in penalties. Yet none of this is exceptional in such projects.

The EPA has the job of riding herd on the city and the authority to assess penalties. The judge resolves disputes between the parties. For the moment, there are none, practically speaking. The city and the agency are working the plan, or the consent decree. In that way, the proposed second amendment reflects the flexibility built into the agreement.

Would it be better if the tunnel project wasn’t behind schedule? Of course. Yet the delay doesn’t stem from some dark motive, Akron looking to fudge its commitment or the EPA failing as a regulator. Judge Adams won’t help by imagining otherwise.