CANMORE – The cost to upgrade and replace a lift station will now cost the Town of Canmore $5.25 million after council agreed to increase the budget for the sewage infrastructure project.
The amended budget approved by council at its Feb. 5 meeting is the third time administration has requested an increase to the budget for the project, which was initially expected to cost $1.65 million in the 2017-18 capital budget.
According to administration, a consultant was hired by EPCOR in 2017 to complete a geo-technical report to determine the impact ground water would have on the project.
The report found an estimated flow rate of 6,000 litres per minute and as a result administration put together a detailed design plan and determined the cost to upgrade the lift station, located behind A&W, would be significantly more than what was initially anticipated in the budget.
In December 2017, council approved increasing the budget to $2.9 million to cover the increased costs.
With a more accurate budget, administration put the project out to tender, however the bids they received estimated the project would cost $3.75 million to complete.
As a result administration returned to council to ask for more money, which it approved in December 2018.
As work began on the project the contractor had a discussion with the previous contractor who installed sewage lines along Railway Avenue in the 1990s and learned the flow rate in the area was significantly higher than what the report stated.
With conflicting information, the Town decided to complete another analysis of the area and it was determined that the flow rate was actually closer to 30,000 litres per minute.
As a result, the initial construction method to build the lift station was no longer considered a viable option because there simply wasn’t anywhere to get rid of the water when digging an open trench.
“At 30,000 litres per minute it just changed the whole way we were going to construct this project,” said Andreas Comeau, manager of public works.
“We looked at a lot of options for dewatering and even then our best guess was we could get up to maybe 25,000 litres per minute and if we got to that point we learned we’d get maybe an hour-and-a-half worth of work in the trench.”
Among the options they looked at was pumping the water into Policeman’s Creek, however that would have required approval from the federal government and it was unlikely to happen.
After reviewing several different construction options, it was determined that micro-tunnelling would be the most cost effective alternative, however that would likely come with a much higher price tag and change the overall scope of the project.
As a result, it was determined that the new approach to construction would eliminate the need to spend $330,000 to replace a manhole and pipe that was already scheduled for renewal in 2019, however the overall cost for the project would still increase by $1.17 million for a total of $5.25 million.
Mayor John Borrowman expressed his frustration that the original geo-technical report provided inaccurate information and asked administration who should be held responsible.
Michael Fark, the town’s general manager for municipal infrastructure, told council EPCOR and its subcontractors are responsible for the inaccurate report.
“We place a high level of expectation with EPCOR to have oversight on these projects and then it goes to EPCOR’s subcontractors that they hire to design and engineer appropriately for the ground conditions that we have here,” said Fark.
“From the Town’s perspective responsibility for this concern lies with the contractor and their subcontractors.”
He said it’s not the first time administration has had to come back to council to ask for more money to complete a project that was supposed to be delivered by EPCOR.
He said it will likely be brought up with the firm when the Town reviews its contract with the company.
Christian Madsen, director of regional operations for EPCOR, said he understood the Town’s frustration.
“We work to select experts who are capable in their field and rely on their opinion to manage capital projects so they are completed on time and on budget,” wrote Madsen. “We’ll be applying our expertise to work with our contractors (and their sub-contractors in this case) to hold them accountable for their conclusions.”
He said ECPOR has managed 11 capital projects in the last year related to water and wastewater infrastructure and is proud of the work it does.
Following a closed door meeting council unanimously approved increasing the project’s budget to $5.25 million. The additional $1.17 million is expected to come from the Town’s utility reserves, which currently sits at $4.1 million.