British Columbia’s Capital Regional District (CRD) issued a notice to Victoria-area residents last week to warn that escalating construction and labour costs, as well as design changes from stakeholder input, could create the need for an additional $10 million to meet the project’s December 2020 build timeline.
The estimated $775 million wastewater treatment project consists of the McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Residuals Treatment Facility at Hartland Landfill, and the conveyance system that will carry wastewater from across the core area to the treatment plant, and residual solids to the Residuals Treatment Facility.
“Cost pressures, primarily due to escalation in material costs and the Vancouver Island construction market, were first identified in September 2017 and have been reported in the monthly reports,” states the notice to taxpayers. “These pressures have steadily increased as each conveyance contract has been awarded.”
The wastewater treatment plant has been under construction since June 2017 after decades of debate over the project, mostly involving infighting between mayors in the region. Hackles were raised yet again on the project last December over the potential removal of trees for construction.
With the majority of the construction for the project underway, municipal officials note that four components have yet to begin: upgrades to the Currie Pump Station; twinning of the Currie Forcemain and the East Coast Interceptor; and finally, the extension of the Trent Forcemain. In 2019, consulting engineering firm Kerr Wood Leidal (KWL) developed an updated model of the core area’s wastewater system to conduct an assessment of the remaining project components.
“Based on extensive flow monitoring data and future wastewater flow estimates, KWL determined that only one of the remaining components (the extension of the Trent Forcemain) has any benefit and is required to meet federal and provincial regulations,” the municipal notice states.
Project Board Chair Don Fairbairn announced that with “a significant reduction in water use thanks to conservation efforts of residents and the increase in low-flow appliances, three of the remaining components will not provide any benefit and would result in unnecessary expenditures and construction impacts if built.”
The other three components have been abandoned at this time. KWL’s report shows three primary factors why: Firstly, average dry weather flow has fallen significantly (flows measured in 2018 are 63% of what they were in 2003); second, the contribution from non-residential sources (industrial, commercial and institutional) has not been as great as previously forecasted; and lastly, water use per person has decreased as the population has increased due to replacement of old water fixtures and appliances driven by public education, changes in building code and incentive programs through the CRD’s water conservation efforts.