The city’s drinking water is currently carried by the penstocks at the John Hart Generating Station. Hydro is removing those penstocks

City to take on debt as costs of new water system rise

Construction costs, as the city moves into the final phase of the city’s new drinking water system, have pushed the project over budget

Construction costs, as the city moves into the final phase of the city’s new drinking water system, have pushed the project over budget and will force the city to take on debt.

At its Monday meeting, council approved borrowing $2.036 million to make up the shortfall.

Council previously paved the way for taking on debt in 2013 when it approved borrowing $15 million over 15 years for water and sewer projects.

The city secured the public’s permission to proceed with taking on debt through the alternate approval process which required voters to sign an opposition form if they weren’t in agreement.

It was a process that at the time, former Mayor Walter Jakeway called “undemocratic” and which Coun. Larry Samson suggested didn’t yield as accurate an outcome as a referendum would have.

Despite that, council at the time gave the green light to city staff to proceed with the borrowing and at Monday’s council meeting, approved taking on the $2.036 million debt to finish the new drinking water system.

Council had budgeted $26.21 million to build a new, trenchless water intake system that includes a new pump station and water treatment building. But council learned earlier this week that the final project cost is coming in at $28.246 million, which is $2.036 million over budget.

Jason Hartley, the city’s capital works manager, said the most recent piece of the project, the water treatment facility, will cost $11.89 million, which includes a $1.1 million contingency.

That’s more than the $10.1 million that the city’s consulting team estimated the cost to be during the design development phase.

Hartley said the cost variance is due to a last minute change while in the design planning phase to how the new drinking water system would function.

“The findings of this plan identified some necessary adjustments to the system design that necessitates the addition of a large surge tank and associated process control and valving,” Hartley said. “This additional scope is valued at approximately $450,000.”

The other factor driving up the cost is the timing.

The project is under a time crunch because the new system has to be up and running before BC Hydro turns off the taps.

The new system has been necessitated by Hydro’s decision to remove the penstocks, that currently deliver the city’s drinking water, as part of its John Hart Generating Station replacement project.

“As a result, the construction work associated with this final phase of work is set to commence during the least favourable point in the year (winter) as measured by weather impact on site construction and must be complete by the end of 2017,” Hartley said. “Although not quantified, this equates to a very aggressive completion schedule that has no doubt resulted in a premium on pricing.”

The project began last year and has been split up into different phases. Part one involved installation of a 2.5 kilometre long watermain which runs underground from the chlorination facility and the intersection of Brewster Lake Road and Highway 28, while part one of phase two was comprised of construction of a deep water intake and associated wet well or caisson.

The final major piece is the water treatment building.

The new system will transport water via a water pipe connected to John Hart Lake roughly 12 metres below the lake’s water surface level.

Under an agreement with BC Hydro, Hydro has committed to provide up to $18.26 million of the project costs, with the remainder being made up by the city through its water utility and borrowing.

The system needs to be up and running by the end of 2017 as BC Hydro requires the city’s water system to be fully functional by May 1, 2018 to facilitate the decommissioning of the three penstocks connected to the existing John Hart Generating Station which will be replaced and relocated underground.

The city plans to make the switch over to its new drinking water system by the end of the first quarter of 2018.