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City of Powell River councillors hear report on wastewater treatment plant construction

Work continues to progress on huge infrastructure project
RECEIVE REPORT: City of Powell River councillors were given their monthly update on progress with construction of the consolidated wastewater treatment plant at their finance committee meeting, indicating that despite some challenges, such as weather and COVID-19, work is progressing well.

In spite of inclement weather conditions, work has so far been proceeding as planned at the consolidated wastewater treatment plant in Townsite, but challenges are being faced.

At the City of Powell River finance committee meeting on November 25, Nagi Rizk, manager of engineering services, said there has been flooding and environmental challenges throughout the province and the wastewater project is now facing issues with transportation and moving goods.

“I did receive a phone call from [treatment plant contractor] Graham Infrastructure notifying us that the rig to drill and other equipment is stuck on the other side of the Coquihalla highway,” said Rizk.

He said the plant location is an incredible site to work at in current weather conditions, but Graham has it under control.

Finance committee chair George Doubt said for construction to carry on with windstorms and epic rain storms is “kind of amazing” and he can see the problems that are being caused by the closure of the Coquihalla.

In outlining other aspects of the construction, Rizk said the project is also facing challenges with prices. He said the type of pipe used for the linear work is increasing in price almost daily. He said if the project goes ahead with horizontal directional drilling (HDD), the walls of the pipe need to be thicker because it gets stretched while being pulled underground.

“Every time we change the diameter up, or the thickness of the walls up, the price goes up,” said Rizk.

As for the linear work, which involves delivery of the wastewater to the plant through piping, Rizk said there is an initiative to broadly make use of HDD. This involves holes at each end of the run of the pipe, and instead of an open cut in a trench on the road or on a trail, or wherever the pipe is going to go, a machine that drills underground tunnels is used.

“It is a way faster method of construction and it’s usually cheaper,” said Rizk. “It’s way more convenient and less disruption to the surface. We are still under discussion about the stretch at Willingdon [Beach area]. We do know that with Willingdon Avenue, the pipe running there is going to be open cut. There will be no HDD there.”

Rizk said the reason is due to a lot of underground services and utilities that could be hit if another system is used.

“Once we come up on Marine Avenue, all the way to the treatment plant, there is the possibility of HDD,” said Rizk. “By next month you’ll know more about it.”

Construction costs

In terms of overall budget, Rizk’s written report to the finance committee shows a budget to date of $89 million, including federal and provincial grants of $55.7 million, city contributions of 27.2 million and sewer reserve of $6 million. Total construction budget to date indicates $60.7 million to Graham for construction, $18.2 million to Graham for linear work, $4.9 million to Associated Engineering for construction administration and $4 million for other construction service costs.

Rizk said he has added COVID-19 as a project risk. In his written report, Rizk stated that coronavirus remains a risk to the economy and the project supply chain more specifically, potentially affecting labour and material availability and/or cost. He stated that construction contractors consistently implement all safety measures on and off site to the best of their abilities.

Mayor Dave Formosa said he’d heard there could be some additional costs because of COVID-19 risks from suppliers. He asked if there was an issue whereby two of the four tanks for the treatment plant might not be showing up because of COVID-19.

Rizk said it has not been officially confirmed. He said as soon as there is confirmation, it will be reported to council.

Formosa said even though the equipment was purchased a long time ago, it appears there are COVID-19 supply chain issues.

Rizk said that is correct.

Written response

In a written question to Rizk from the Peak after the meeting, asking about whether HDD could be used along the Willingdon Beach and trail corridor, Rizk stated the city is still in negotiation, so nothing is confirmed yet, but in general HDD method is less disruptive to the environment, to the finished surface (roads or trail), to tree roots, to traffic and should reduce construction time. For those reasons it is more convenient to all road and trail users, he stated.

Rizk was also asked about the increased cost of the pipe. He stated the pipe for the linear work is in Graham’s contract to supply and install. The contract has been awarded, therefore the cost increase is to be borne by Graham.

“We were hoping for cost savings when using the HDD method, but now with the constant pipe cost increase, this cost saving may not materialize after all,” stated Rizk. “The additional cost to the city would be the consultant fees to recalculate the pipe capacity if the pipe material or size varies due to the proposed HDD method in places where the contract specified a cut and cover (digging) method.

“Again, all this is still being considered and has not been decided yet.”

In terms of weather disruption, Rizk stated it had not yet slowed up construction, which is quite remarkable, but it is affecting the supply chain beyond Graham’s control.

“On site, Graham’s effort to control erosion and sedimentation and stay on schedule may or may not translate into claims for additional cost,” stated Rizk. “The contract defines what constitutes extra cost to be paid to the contractor and what does not.”

In terms of the contract for the outfall into the Salish Sea, Rizk stated the contract has not been awarded yet.

“We are still negotiating the terms of the contract (price included) with Graham’s subcontractor,” stated Rizk. “Next month I will be reporting on the final contract price. There is an allowance of $3 million in Graham’s contract for this item.”