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HomeBusinessNew sewage plant site in limbo, but project could be refloated at a much higher price

New sewage plant site in limbo, but project could be refloated at a much higher price


Bob Mackin

July 10 marked a dismal milestone.

It was three months ago that District of North Vancouver slapped a stop work order to halt the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant project. Site preparation work had unofficially stopped several weeks earlier.

Subcontractor Tetra Tech sued prime contractor Acciona for $20 million the week before the stop work order. There is no restart date in sight for the $778 million project to build a new secondary treatment plant.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on July 10 (Mackin)

According to a report to Metro Vancouver mayors and councillors, the project is only 4% complete and $34.45 million has been spent to date. The deadline to replace the 1961-built, Lions Gate primary sewage plant and meet the new secondary treatment standard is Dec. 31, 2020, less than 18 months away.

North Vancouver Liberal MP and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said at a salmon habitat enhancement news conference near the Seymour River on July 10 that talks are underway to expand the scope of the project, which would lead to higher costs.

“[Metro Vancouver] have not come back to the federal government and asked for more because of the delay with the contractor,” Wilkinson said. “For a tertiary plant there may be a little bit more capital required and that is a conversation we’re having.”

A construction industry source, who declined to be named in print for fear of retribution, told that the delay, lawsuit and a scope increase would put the project cost well over $1 billion.

As exclusively reported on April 25, engineering firm Tetra Tech claims in the B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit that it was wrongfully fired Feb. 22 after Acciona breached its contract by failing to provide, “in a timely way, fully and accurately all information as might reasonably be required for Tetra Tech’s performance of all the services, including decisions and directions passed down to Acciona from [Metro Vancouver] and Acciona Wastewater.”

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

Tetra Tech also claims Acciona failed to provide viable integrated schedules, including procurement and construction schedules, and that Acciona provided late and incomplete responses to requests for information and failed. 

Wilkinson called the issues between Acciona and Metro Vancouver “unfortunate from everybody’s perspective. I know that Metro is working hard to address those issues.”

“What we are doing in the interim is having lots of conversations between relevant parties, Squamish Nation is part of this, the province, and Metro and feds, about, well if we’re going to be looking at a bit of time and it may mean that the issues around the plant are such that it’s going to be hard to make the original timeline, let’s talk about moving this to a tertiary system which is going to take more of the contaminants out of it before it reaches the water,” he said. “Let’s look at this as an opportunity to do better on a piece of infrastructure to do more than the bare minimum for a piece of infrastructure that’s going to last us for 60 to 70 years.”

The 2016 federal Liberal budget included $212 million to upgrade the Lions Gate sewage plant. In March 2017, the feds announced up to $212.3 million, “representing one-third of the estimated $636.9 million in total eligible project cost.” B.C. is contributing $193 million, leaving the rest to Metro Vancouver. 

In April 2017, Acciona was awarded a $542 Million fixed price contract. North Shore ratepayers are expected to see the annual household cost double from $300 in 2019 to $609 in 2023. “Capital cost impacts are still under review.”

Acciona has appealed to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in a bid to block a freedom of information request by for the project’s detailed construction status, cost and schedule report.

The NDP government has shorlisted Site C-contractor Acciona for the $2.83 billion Broadway Subway SkyTrain extension and, along with scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin, the $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge replacement.

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