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HomeMiscellanyOpinion: Something doesn’t smell right about the North Shore sewage plant project

Opinion: Something doesn’t smell right about the North Shore sewage plant project


Bob Mackin

Something doesn’t smell right, and not a drop of urine or feces is supposed to arrive in the Lower Mainland’s new sewage plant until the end of 2020. 

Metro Vancouver’s liquid waste committee meets in the afternoon of Jan. 17 to get an update on the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is to be built on the site of the former BC Rail station at the the foot of Pemberton Avenue in North Vancouver. 

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

Metro Vancouver chair Sav Dhaliwal said in a Jan. 10 interview that “it is exactly what we have signed, on budget and on time.”

Is it really? 

Two sources have told that the project to replace the 58-year-old plant near the Lions Gate Bridge is already facing budget and schedule trouble. A report to the board sure points that way.

The three-and-a-half-page status update from project manager Paul Dufault says the project has an approved budget of $777.9 million, which is $77.9 million higher than the estimated $700 million cost.

Dufault’s report says that the budget is to be “partially offset by $405.3 million” in contributions from federal and B.C. taxpayers. Spain’s Acciona Infrastructure leads a consortium that includes Dialog Design, AECOM, Golder Associates, Louis Berger, Wood Group and WSP. 

“With respect to the project timeline, Acciona is contracted to deliver the project on the timeline approved by the board,” Dufault wrote. “As both the plant construction contract and conveyance works contract are design build projects, the contractors for these two projects are required to complete the projects on the basis of the fixed price contractual terms within the overall budget as set out above.”

Nowhere in the report does it say the project is on-time and on-budget. Nor does it include a calendar of project milestones. Nor does it include a diagram showing how much has been spent and how much remains to be spent. 

Neither Dufault nor senior project engineer Joan Liu responded to written questions from

The report states that the engineer of record authorized the initial preload on Nov. 27, 2018 and the work is proceeding on the site from west to east. It does not say what percentage of preload has been completed and does not say the target date for completion of the preload. 

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

Coincidentally, on Nov. 27, 2018, filed three freedom of information requests to Metro Vancouver for:

  1. The most-recent project status report (showing financial status, approved amendments, dollar amounts for submitted invoices to date and payment of invoices to date, a description of contract changes, task descriptions, value and status, schedule, design, construction, production, installation, operations and maintenance, and opportunities, risks and challenges for all aspects of the project;
  2. The change order log showing the individual dates that changes were initiated, negotiated and finalized, the transaction or file numbers for each of the changes, the costs or credits for each change, the cumulative amounts to date, the time in calendar days of the extensions and the adjusted totals, and the detailed description of the individual changes;
  3. All names and titles and/or job descriptions of personnel involved with the Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment project, including, but not limited to, personnel from Metro Vancouver, provincial, regional and municipal government departments and agencies, and contractors. 

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act sets 30 business days as the deadline for a response from a public body. That deadline came and went on Jan. 10. 

Metro Vancouver’s Deputy Corporate Officer Klara Kutakova said via email that she is “actively working on the files,” and the records are “going through the final stages of our internal review process.”

Kutakova says she hopes to provide the records by the end of the week, “but earlier than that if possible.” 

I am not holding my breath.

But I am holding my nose, because something doesn’t smell right about this project. 

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