A judge hit the city with another multimillion dollar judgment Monday, awarding nearly $19 million in penalties and interest to a construction company that had sued to collect payment for work it did on a water treatment project.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman awarded $15 million in penalties and $3.7 million in interest to Dillingham Ray Wilson and its subcontractors, who completed work in 1998 on the Hyperion treatment plant project, part of the city’s effort to clean up Santa Monica Bay.

Last week, a jury awarded the companies $12.3 million for the unpaid contract balance. The city’s cost in the lawsuit has so far reached $41 million.

The plaintiffs sued in 1999, alleging the city owed them $66 million for work on the project, including pipelines and other structures.

“Clearly, the city withheld the money for leverage,” said Timothy L. Pierce, who represented one of the subcontractors, Chicago Bridge & Iron. “That’s a fine strategy until you have to explain to the jury why you withheld the money.”

Pierce said another hearing to determine attorney fees and costs likely will take place in August.

The city, which has spent $10.6 million on private lawyers handling its defense, withheld payment because it felt it was owed that amount for liquidated and false claims damages, Jonathan Diamond, a spokesman for City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, said last week.

Diamond did not respond to a request for comment on the most recent award.

In 2002, an investigator working for City Controller Laura Chick raised questions about billing practices and work being done by lawyers the city hired from Wickwire & Gavin.

Those lawyers Nowland C. Hong and Michael S. Simon, who worked for Brown, Winfield & Canzoneri when the contract began, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Daniel Carvin, who worked for Chick for three months before being fired, believed she and Delgadillo gave preferential treatment to the law firm because it is a frequent donor to local politicians, said Carvin’s attorney, Louis J. Cohen.

Chick’s and Delgadillo’s offices have denied the allegations.