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HomeBusinessPCL could replace Acciona on Metro Vancouver’s troubled North Shore sewage plant project

PCL could replace Acciona on Metro Vancouver’s troubled North Shore sewage plant project


Bob Mackin

Metro Vancouver’s ongoing rescue of the late and over-budget North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant project continues, after the award of a key contract on March 9.

Spain’s Acciona dominates B.C. megaprojects

The liquid waste committee voted to name project engineer AECOM Canada Ltd. the design consultant in a move that could lead to construction resuming in summer. Cheryl Nelms, Metro Vancouver’s general manager of project delivery, told the committee that the $15 million amendment for AECOM is the first phase of a contract that could cost as much as $60 million.

Almost a year ago, on March 12, 2021, the Metro Vancouver board admitted the budget had doubled to $1.058 billion and the plant wouldn’t be in service until 2024 – four years later than planned. Last October, the board announced firing of design, build and finance contractor Acciona for missing construction milestones and gave formal, 90-day notice in January.

Acciona is the lead main civil works contractor on the Site C dam and has joint venture contracts to build the new Pattullo Bridge and Broadway Subway.

“In AECOMs new role as design consultant they will now hold the process guarantees and will ensure that the plant is fully operable and maintainable while meeting its federal and provincial obligations with regards to effluent performance,” said the staff report. “The transition of AECOM to assume the role of Metro Vancouvers design consultant will enable cost savings by fast-tracking portions of the design and maintaining construction continuity.”

The project has cost $498 million so far and is expected to spend another $267 million in 2022. Design of the sewage plant project on the former BC Rail station site in North Vancouver is 80% complete, but construction only 37%. The only part finished is a pump station near the aging, 1961-opened sewage plant beside the Lions Gate Bridge. 

Larina Lopez sandwiched between Metro Vancouver’s Pee and Poo mascots (Metro Vancouver)

At its Feb. 23 meeting, the committee awarded PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc. a $40 million construction management contract that positions PCL as the likely successor to Acciona.

“The ideal situation is that that contractor can then come to us and provide us with that guaranteed, maximum price to deliver the project, and we would come to [the board] in September, October to recommend an award with this contractor to implement and do the final construction of this project,” Nelms said.

Seven companies responded to the November tender call. Aecon Water Infrastructure Ltd. and Graham Infrastructure LP were also shortlisted.

Nelms said there could be further concrete work on the site in the summer. The next budget update is not expected until the fourth quarter of 2022. Nelms said the escalating costs for labour and commodities have “been on the radar.”

Meanwhile, the committee gave preliminary design approval for a new Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, estimated at $9.9 billion. The committee directed staff to continue pursuit of funding from senior governments.

Metro Vancouver won’t meet the 2030 federal deadline to upgrade secondary sewage treatment. The new plant would not be operational until mid-2035, with full completion estimated for 2038. But it will put a dent in household budgets.

Households in the Vancouver sewerage area, which includes Vancouver,Richmond, Burnaby and the University of British Columbia and endowment lands, could be paying $275 to $625 more per year during the life of the project. In other areas, the tax hit would be $15 to $75 per year.

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