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Metro Vancouver to initiate independent review of troubled North Shore wastewater project

Metro Vancouver to initiate independent review of troubled North Shore wastewater project
COURTESY METRO VANCOUVER — Aerial rendering of North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant.

NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. – Metro Vancouver issued a statement on June 18 indicating it will start an independent review of the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant Program which has run into numerous significant delays and cost overruns.

The news comes just days after several local politicians from B.C.’s Lower Mainland asked the provincial auditor general to investigate the ballooning costs of the project.

The estimated cost of the project now stands at $3.86 billion, up from an original estimate of $700 million. In October 2021 Metro Vancouver terminated its contract with Acciona Wastewater Solutions LP citing rising costs and delays.

In a statement to the public the organization said it was “are acutely aware of the concerns around how the updated costs to deliver the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant Program will impact residents of this region.”

“Since announcing the cost estimate for the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant Program, we have heard concerns about whether Metro Vancouver is managing costs effectively for the public. We take these concerns seriously and as such, as the chair of the board, I am initiating an independent review of the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant Program costs,” Metro Vancouver board chair George Harvie said.

In 2023 a task force was struck to review the history of the project and find options for completion. Three separate cost estimates were completed in the previous year, the statement said, which informed the final cost estimate along with an external expert panel reviewing the process and cost update.

The estimate considered market conditions, inflation, interest rates, hiring a new contractor, cost of materials and labour, the statement said, with task force meetings held behind closed doors due to the subject matter under discussion including commercial matters and litigation.

Metro Vancouver commissioner and CAO Jerry Dobrovolny, hired by the board in late 2019, said he was first tasked with a comprehensive review of project delivery practices resulting in recommendations for improvements.

“We established a project delivery department as a centre of project delivery expertise for the organization, restructured our procurement and real estate services department, and implemented enhanced project management processes,” Dobrovolny said.

He stressed the importance of a realistic approach in estimating project costs in order to provide the region with lead time to plan for cost management.

“It is extremely important to me that the public trust the work that Metro Vancouver does – we pride ourselves on being the foundation of what makes this region livable by delivering world-class drinking water and by applying innovation to our wastewater system to protect human health and the Salish Sea, as well as adapt to climate change impacts,” he said.

The North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant Program is made up of three projects: construction of a new treatment plant, construction of related conveyance infrastructure, and preliminary design for the decommissioning of the current Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant.

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