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Nanaimo water plant construction lags behind

Nanaimo’s new multi-million-dollar water treatment plant is still on budget, but there’s no guarantees it will stay that way with construction lagging almost five months behind schedule.

The City of Nanaimo has released an update on the South Forks Water Treatment Plant, which has been under construction since last year.

According to Bill Sims, the city’s manager of water resources, the project has drawn close to 40 per cent from its million-dollar contingency fund because of minor changes in design and is four to five months behind schedule.

Longer construction periods often lead to increased costs, he said, adding that while the plant is anticipated to stay within budget, that can change with time.

So far there have been $676,000 in overruns, which the city has offset with $289,000 in savings found in areas like equipment and landscaping.

Sims said the project team has been very conscientious about the budget because of the size of the project and dollars involved.

“Very early on in the project we put the entire team on notice that we had to hit our budget so that included looking for opportunities to save money,” he said. “We have a pretty modest contingency, at the same time the change orders to date [have been] below one per cent of the overall construction value, which is good. That’s excellent in fact.”

The water treatment plant, considered state-of-the-art and one of the city’s costliest multi-year infrastructure projects, is halfway done. It’s being built as part of a $70-million filtration system needed to meet new Island Health guidelines which require the municipality to take more stringent measures before 2015 to prevent waterborne illness.

Sims anticipates construction will wrap up in April or May of next year rather than this December as originally planned and will be operational by late summer, costing $830,000 for the half-year. Once it’s fully up and running, it will cost taxpayers $1.2 million annually, including $700,000 to staff the plant.

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