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Tax increases cost of Nanaimo water treatment plant

Bill Sims, the City of Nanaimo’s manager of water resources, shows the plans for the new South Forks Water Treatment Plant. Work began at the site in April.  - TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/The News Bulletin
Bill Sims, the City of Nanaimo’s manager of water resources, shows the plans for the new South Forks Water Treatment Plant. Work began at the site in April.
— image credit: TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo  city officials are working to cut back one of the municipality’s costliest infrastructure projects as it runs $1 million over budget.

The City of Nanaimo is less than a quarter of the way through construction of its new water treatment plant and facing the need to dip into its $2-million contingency fund thanks to an ‘unforeseen’ switch to provincial sales tax. City staff members say British Columbia’s transition from harmonized sales tax back to PST put the project $1 million over budget. They are now working with  general contractor, Kenaidan Contracting, for elements of the project they can cut temporarily.

Work on the new water treatment plant started on the city’s 25-hectare South Forks spread in April, close to six years after planning first got underway.

The the new filtration system, estimated to tally $69 million, is considered to be one of the city’s costliest multi-year infrastructure projects in recent history. It is being built to meet new Island Health guidelines, which require the municipality to take more stringent measures before 2015 to prevent waterborne illnesses.

Currently the water has the ‘potential’ to be unsafe during times of high turbidity. New membrane technology is expected to add a barrier to water that will filter out any pathogens.

According to Bill Sims, the city’s manager of water resources, choosing the new technology has been an exciting process but has presented some ongoing challenges, from soft rock beneath the foundation of the structure to the budget over-run.

“We are being careful about what the budget is right now,” Sims said.

The city has already agreed to put construction of the site’s new maintenance and storage shed on hold.

“We felt it was necessary for the operation, but do we need it to treat water? Not really,” Sims said. “We can live without it for awhile.

Foundation for the new water treatment plant will be laid this January and the plant is set to open before the end of 2014.

With construction on track, Susan Clift, director of engineering and public works, said the city staff members are now turning their attention to the next big challenge: figuring out how to best operate the new plant. City officials will travel to Kamloops and Abbotsford within the next four weeks to look at how similar facilities are operated and staffed.

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