Water Treatment Plant Getting Refurbished

Lynsey Kitching


After 30 years of the same filters, the Tumble Ridge Water Treatment Plant (WTP) is getting a face lift. During Sept. 2011 an extensive inspection of the WTP was done. In the report it indicated the WTP filters were operating at a very low efficiency, below 50 percent, which resulted in the need to refurbish the four filters and piping system.

At the recent council meeting Councillor Leggett asks, “This initiative, is it to improve the drinking water quality; to get the sulphur taste out of the water?”

Barry Elliott, CAO replies, “The filters have been in place for 30 years, there has certainly been care and attention to them by staff. They know what they are doing in terms of operation. The filter medium, the sand inside, wears out over time and becomes less and less efficient. Efficiency has dropped so much; it could certainly contribute to the sulphur taste. We will know more when it’s brought back up to standard. In preparation for that we did a few things to confirm the existing filters still have their structural integrity. We can go forward on this project and we will see some improvement. It may take a little time.”

There also exists legislation around the Drinking Water Protection Act, which the District must adhere to in regards to testing the water.

For the project, council has decided to go with the contractor who bid quite low compared to its competition. The winner of the request for proposal (RFP), Canadian Western Mechanical Ltd bid $399,399, while Nason Contracting Group Ltd put in a bid of $915,000, a difference of $515,601.

Councillor Caisley asks, “I notice a comment that there were no mathematical errors. Do we have any understanding at all how two proposals for the same job can be that far out?”

Doug Beale, Operating Manager for Public Works and Engineering says in response, “I was quite concerned about the difference. My understanding is that Canadian Western Mechanical did come in as a fairly low bid, but certainly is acceptable in terms of the scope of work. Although they are fairly low, it is within the right scope. Why the other contractor is so high, I don’t have any explanation at this time. I haven’t reviewed the complete document. My consideration though was to ensure the low bidder can and will be able to do the job.”

He continues, “I also don’t believe there were any issues with the bid process, all of the information was presented and both bidders had access. It is what it is. I couldn’t explain the discrepancy.”

Beale says he is quite confident Canadian Western Mechanical Ltd. will be able to produce quality work.

The other big expense for the project is the monies being paid to Urban Systems. They will be paid $62,000 plus tax to be the contract administration and construction inspector as outlined in the work schedule for the WTP refurbishment.

Councillor Mackay says, “Lately when we talk about Urban systems bells and whistles go off in my head. Is there anybody else who can do this?”

Elliott responds, “There are certainly other firms we could approach to put together a proposal of the administration. Urban systems did all of the work leading up to this point. We would be retracing some steps to bring the new firm up to speed. So it is our recommendation we proceed and continue with Urban Systems. I will tell council we are taking a much more critical view of the use of Urban Systems and some of our other consultants as well. Council will see some tighter administration of this.”

Mayor Wren has concerns as to why Urban Systems is needed as the administrator of the contract. He asks, “If they are going to be taking our direction, I’m not sure why we need them?”

Elliott replies, “They are providing the technical understanding of the construction schedule; all the technical particulars of the refurbishment itself. We don’t have that kind of expertise in house.”

Wren then comments, “I’m seeing two scopes of work. The construction inspection, I agree they have the expertise. But the contract administration itself seems like something we do as a District all of the time.

Beale provides some clarity saying, “The actual intent in the contract administration and the construction inspection is to oversee the project from start to finish. We are talking about mechanical systems, which require a mechanical engineer to approve every drawing, every change. We are not just changing the sand in the filters. In order to proceed to do any work, we have to install two valves to work on separate filter systems. The way it stands right now, we would have to shut down the whole system. We can’t do that. We need to supply clean healthy drinking water for the community. There is work that needs to be done, tested, and approved. They do have a more comprehensive work schedule that is not included in the motion that we certainly can view. Some of the work I could do, but I can’t approve drawings because I’m not a mechanical engineer.”

Now that Canadian Western Mechanical Ltd. has officially become the contractor, the refurbishment should be completed within the next 10 to 12 months.

“We are looking at six to eight weeks from start to finish. Also, it will take about four weeks for the company to be ready,” explains Beale.