Potential for Greater Victoria sewage project to go over budget

“Our confidence [in meeting budget] is not high”

Greater Victoria’s sewage treatment project may have to undergo revisions in order to save money, with the chair of the board overseeing the project warning of likely cost over-runs.

Don Fairbairn, chair of the core area wastewater treatment project board, raised the possibility of revisions in a presentation to the wastewater treatment committee of the Capital Regional District.

“Our confidence [in meeting budget] is not high,” he said. “We are feeling concerned that there is a likelihood that we will not be able to deliver the program within the control budget.”

Fairbairn said the project board will have a better understanding of the cost pressures facing the $765-million project by mid-March, when Ernst and Young, as well as KWL Consulting Engineers will have returned their respective assessments.

Funding for the project comes from three sources: the provincial and federal governments responsible for a total of $459 million and local governments responsible for $306 million.

Ernst and Young will look at what Fairbairn calls the “root causes” of the current cost pressures. “Is it related to things that we can control? Is it related to things we can’t control? Is it related initially to the quality of the budgets utilized to establish our control budget?”

Escalating material, labour, and design costs have forced the project board to lower its confidence that the project won’t exceed the budget, said Fairbairn. Other factors include the completion deadline of Dec. 31, 2020 for the project, input from stakeholders, and geo-technical risks, he said.

KWL Consulting Engineers will also give the board an independent cost analysis of the remaining elements still requiring procurement, he said. The public heard about three per cent of the project remain un-procured. KWL Consulting’s assessment would also consider whether the not-yet-procured elements add “utility value” to the project.

“As a consequence of this study, we may or may not, I don’t know, come to the conclusion that some of that infrastructure could be deferred,” he said. “We should come to some determination as whether or not there is value in that infrastructure — what should be built, what could be deferred, or some of it ought not to be built.”

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Fairbairn said the outcome of this review is open. Should the review recommend changes, it would be up to the core area liquid waste management committee to recommend changes to the CRD board. “There would be robust discussion around that,” he said.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, who chairs the core area liquid waste management committee, said she is not pre-supposing anything at this stage. “Mr. Fairbairn has expressed a gut feeling, and they are going to get that information.”

Touching on various aspects of the project, Fairbairn said it remains on schedule.

“We have a high level of confidence that we will deliver this project,” he said. “We will have an operating wastewater treatment system that complies with all regulations, all laws, no later than Dec. 31, 2020.”


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