Contract dispute, layoffs halt construction of billion dollar wastewater treatment plant in North Vancouver – .

Contract dispute, layoffs halt construction of billion dollar wastewater treatment plant in North Vancouver – .

Work halt this week after massive layoffs reported by Metro Vancouver prime contractor Acciona

Construction of the troubled $ 1 billion project to build a new wastewater treatment plant in North Vancouver was reportedly halted this week amid a contractual dispute between Metro Vancouver and its prime contractor , Acciona.

Gears stopped starting the massive infrastructure project this week after prime contractor Acciona Wastewater Solutions laid off a significant number of workers, leaving only a small team.

Sources told the North Shore News that Acciona had laid off more than 200 workers at the site in recent months, with the latest round of layoffs this week.

Work on the site was halted on Wednesday, they said.

Metro Vancouver commissioner and general manager Jerry Dobrovolny said in a statement the government learned on Wednesday “without notice” that Acciona had “significantly reduced the staff working on the project.”

Sources told the North Shore News that Acciona said this week that it had not received money owed by Metro Vancouver under its contract.

In response, Dobrovolny said the entrepreneur has “fallen behind in reaching key milestones,” which are being reviewed by an independent party.

“At this point, Acciona Wastewater Solutions LP has not earned any additional payment. We have made an effort to work together, but we expect them to honor all contractual obligations, ”he said Thursday. “Given that they are years behind on this project, we expect them to increase their efforts there and not reduce them as we saw yesterday,” he said Thursday.

The contract to build the sewage treatment plant was reopened in 2019 to give the company another two and a half years to complete the project, Dobrovolny said. Under the current contract, Acciona is expected to complete the project by the end of 2023.

Dobrovolny added that Metro Vancouver “is actively evaluating our options on how to proceed.”

No one from Acciona was immediately available to comment on the situation.

Marc DiMarco, Director of Health, Safety and Environment at Acciona (left) and Metro Vancouver Assistant Project Engineer Stuart Hilland examine the construction of the waste treatment plant. North Shore Wastewater in March 2021. | Paul McGrath, Côte-Nord News

Construction of the McKeen Avenue processing plant in North Vancouver is already years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget.

Just days before the work was halted, Cheryl Nelms, general manager of project delivery for Metro Vancouver, and Dobrovolny provided an update on the project to local governments in the North Shore, alluding to possible problems.

Nelms said in a presentation to the North Vancouver District Council that the small size of the site, proximity to the waterfront and rail lines, as well as an “aggressive” construction schedule had “created challenges for the site. ‘entrepreneur to take up’.

“It’s a very big project. It is a very complex project. It is a difficult project to build. And the entrepreneur is certainly having difficulties, ”Dobrovolny said at Monday night’s meeting. “As you know, the project is significantly overdue and over budget. And we are working hard to try to resolve the issues with the contractor. And these negotiations, the discussions are continuing.

In March, Metro Vancouver released costs that put revised project cost estimates at $ 1.058 billion, more than $ 100 million more than the previous cost estimate that put the project cost at $ 882 million. of dollars.

Originally, the treatment plant was to be operational by December 2020 in order to comply with federal secondary treatment requirements. Now, however, the project is not expected to be completed until 2024.

Looking at the new construction project for a new wastewater treatment plant in North Vancouver in March 2021.. By Paul McGrath, North Shore News

After public pressure from conservationists, the plant’s design was changed in 2019 to allow tertiary wastewater treatment, adding $ 29 million to the project’s budget, then estimated at $ 778 million.

The cost increases are due to several factors, including geotechnical complications with soils at the site, Metro Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Dobrovolny said at the time.

In April 2019, the District of North Vancouver imposed a stop-work order on the site after Acciona terminated one of its main geotechnical engineering contractors, Tetra Tech. This led to Tetra Tech taking a $ 20 million lawsuit. The soil conditions at the site were part of this dispute.

Since then, COVID has added another layer of challenges with supply slowdowns and requirements for additional on-site protocols.

Construction on the project was originally scheduled to begin in 2014, but did not begin until 2018.

The cost also includes the preliminary design for the decommissioning of the site of the existing wastewater treatment plant adjacent to the Lions Gate Bridge and its transfer to the Squamish Nation.

The debate over replacing the current aging Lions Gate primary treatment plant dates back several years.

For decades, the roughly 31 billion liters of waste dumped in Burrard Inlet have only been treated at a very basic “primary” level – which essentially involves removing larger “solids” by mechanical means. In 2012, new federal government regulations defined secondary treatment – which adds bacteriological decomposition of waste – as the minimum standard required for wastewater treatment, and set December 2020 as the deadline for upgrading wastewater. older factories.

The tertiary system under construction on the North Shore is the same as the $ 775 million tertiary system recently completed in the Capital Regional District of Victoria after four years of construction.

North Vancouver District Mayor Mike Little, who sits on Metro Vancouver’s liquid waste committee, applauded the approach on Monday, but added it made construction more complex.

“These are incredibly complex projects. And the way we’ve done them in the past is no longer acceptable… ”said Little. “And so we have made a commitment as a society to build a more complex process, which will have less negative effects on the ecological environment of the region. But that means it’s a very complex facility to build.

Crews work in front of a digestion tower as part of a new project to build a new wastewater treatment plant in North Vancouver in March 2021. | Paul McGrath, Côte-Nord News


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