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HomeBusinessBillion dollar Metro Vancouver sewage plant project has the overruns

Billion dollar Metro Vancouver sewage plant project has the overruns

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Bob Mackin

The new sewage plant under construction on the old BC Rail station site in North Vancouver will cost at least double the original estimate and take an extra three years to complete.

What the $700 million, er, $777.9 million North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant is supposed to look like when finished (Acciona)

Metro Vancouver finally revealed March 12 that the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant would cost $1.058 billion and be finished in 2024.

When the design-build-finance contractor Acciona was hired in April 2017, it was supposed to cost $525 million. The price tag was announced as $700 million when the sod was turned in 2018 and late 2020 set for completion. It escalated to $778 million before early 2019 when District of North Vancouver slapped a stop work order on the site for more than three months while Acciona bickered with engineering subcontractor Tetra Tech.

Another $29 million was added to the tab in mid-July 2019 when politicians used the slowdown to switch gears and upgrade to tertiary treatment.

Metro Vancouver chair Sav Dhaliwal told theBreaker.news that the schedule was “very optimistic” and blamed ground conditions, scope changes and the pandemic for delays. Consultants were hired, including Dana Hayden, the former chair of PartnershipsBC, to get a handle on the problems. 

April 10-issued stop work order for the $779M North Shore sewage plant project (Mackin)

There are no immediate plans to hit taxpayers with increases, Dhaliwal said. Staff are looking for savings elsewhere in capital and operations budgets and he hopes to make another proposal to the federal and B.C. governments. They already put up a combined $400 million. 

“They’ve got other priorities,” Dhaliwal told theBreaker.news. “There is no hope of us getting any more money, we have tried to engage them without any success.”

Metro Vancouver politicians got the bad news behind closed doors Feb. 26, but waited to release the update on March 12. 

Sara Bond lives near the construction site with her husband Steve. They have “front row seats” to dirt piles, digging, drilling, pile driving and trucks coming and going.

“We’ve been asking for this detailed plan for a year now. All we do know is that the District of North Vancouver has granted permission for construction [24 hours a day, six days a week] for the next year. I’m not sure how we’ll deal with this for another year, let alone another three,” Bond said.  

“The lack of transparency has really exasperated the issue for us. We’ve spoken to people at all levels of government and no one has had answers to give. It’s been troubling as a resident dealing with noise, but it’s also alarming as a taxpayer.”

Is the Spanish company that Metro Vancouver hired too busy?

North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant is in the preload stage (Acciona)

Acciona and South Korea’s Samsung are in the Peace River Hydro Partners team with the main civil works contract on the Site C dam, which has nearly doubled in price to $16 billion. The B.C. NDP government gave Acciona highway maintenance contracts in Okanagan-Shuswap and South Okanagan.

In 2019, Acciona and Aecon were hired to build the new $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge. Last year, Acciona was chosen to build the $2.83 billion Broadway Subway, along with tunnelling partner Ghella.

“I agree there comes a time when any company, if it spreads too thin, it could be a risk,” Dhaliwal said. “But until there’s a clear sign of that, there’s not a whole lot I can comment.”

Acciona has replaced the corruption-plagued SNC-Lavalin as the major infrastructure contractor to the B.C. government. One of Acciona’s key consultants was Jim Burke, a former executive vice-president of SNC-Lavalin who died of cancer in 2020. 

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