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HomeBusinessExclusive: Halted Metro Vancouver sewage megaproject could resume this week

Exclusive: Halted Metro Vancouver sewage megaproject could resume this week


Bob Mackin

A stop work order is expected to be lifted in a matter of days, allowing the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant project to resume after more than three months at standstill.

On April 10, District of North Vancouver halted site preparation for Metro Vancouver’s $778 million secondary sewage treatment project on the former BC Rail train station site. Only 4% of work has been completed with a deadline of the end of 2020.

Work had unofficially stopped in March, as a dispute brewed between design-build-operate contractor Acciona and engineering subcontractor Tetra Tech. Tetra Tech sued for $20 million four days before the District of North Vancouver moved.

North Vancouver Mayor Mike LIttle

“We are anticipating removing the stop work order this week,” North Vancouver District Mayor Mike Little told “They do meet the conditions of removing the stop work order, they have certified professionals in place now and have given the District assurances on the other things we asked for.”

Little, who is also the vice chair of Metro Vancouver’s liquid waste committee, said Acciona has made changes and he anticipates “they’ll have more of their team based here.”

He said designers and head architects are based in Spain and had been commuting for monthly project updates. 

“The turnaround for changes just wasn’t fast enough.”

Now, Little said, Acciona has reached a critical mass of projects in B.C., including work on Site C as part of Peace River Hydro Partners, bids on the Broadway Subway and Pattullo Bridge replacement and a new highway maintenance contract in Okanagan-Shuswap and South Okanagan.

As for the lawsuit, Little said “the view they were portraying was Acciona was cutting corners.”

Acciona did not respond for comment on July 16.

On July 10, the three-month milestone, North Vancouver Liberal MP Jonathan Wilkinson, who is also the fisheries and oceans minister, said the project scope could be upgraded from a secondary to tertiary treatment at an unspecified, higher cost.

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

As exclusively reported on April 25, Tetra Tech claimed 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.”

Tetra Tech also claimed 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. 

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.”

Little said he did not know the revised schedule and budget. “I’m sure there will be more information available, but it’s not yet.”

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.

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