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Price tag for wastewater plant upgrade in Tay soars to $37.3-M

'The project is very important and we keep turning away development and upgrades to homes (and other buildings and businesses),' said mayor
A rendering of a proposed $37.3 million phase two expansion to the Victoria Harbour wastewater treatment plant was provided in a committee of the whole recently by Jacque-Ann Grant, designer vertical infrastructure for WSP Canada Group Limited.

You may want to put down your fork and plate for this one.

At a recent committee of the whole meeting for Tay Township, a presentation to upgrade the Victoria Harbour wastewater plant was estimated by WSP Canada Group Limited at $37.3 million if achieved in the next few years.

According to designer Jacque-Ann Grant, vertical infrastructure for WSP, the Victoria Harbour wastewater treatment plant built in 1982 has been operating over its capacity since 2019. Following an environmental assessment in 2012, phase one of an expansion to the site was completed in 2017 while phase two is projected for a 2025 completion date.

To meet the capacity needs in the proposed construction: aerobic digesters would be created and moved from their current location which would be converted to aeration tanks; and new facilities would be constructed including a new secondary clarifier, a biosolids building, a processing area for dewatered cake hoppers, and a holding area for thickened sludge.

“The construction cost estimate for the phase two upgrades currently is at $37.3 million,” said Grant, with anticipation that tenders could be sent out in October. “This is a class one estimate, and it’s based on supplier quotations as well as… applying unit costs with the design quantities.”

She added: “The actual construction cost estimate is $25.2 million, however we do include additional factors.”

The remaining $12.1 million was calculated as a $3.8 million cover for contractor cost overhead and profit, a $1.5 million allowance regarding changes during construction, a $5 million contingency, and a $1.7 million consultant site inspection fee.

Deputy Mayor Barry Norris had many questions for the presenters, with the primary goal of finding cost savings for the township’s future expansion needs.

When asking about whether the 2017 county growth plan for 2050 had been taken into consideration for phase two, Grant explained that current capacity was based on the 2012 environmental assessment of the project.

“The numbers are driven by population projection,” said Grant. “Let’s bear in mind for Tay Township: an EA was completed in 2012; it’s already approved by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for expansion to 3,550. This is all driven by population projections. Any further expansion of the plant… will require revisiting of the population projections to see what those numbers would be.

“The current expansion is supposed to service a population up to 5,700 persons by the population report,” added Grant.

In the 2021 Canada Census, the population of Tay Township was 11,000 living throughout roughly 5,300 total private dwellings.

Dean Whittaker, director of vertical infrastructure of WSP, informed Norris that dewatering biosolids into a ‘cake’ – spongy biowaste used in fertilization and landfills – would result in an approximate 90 per cent volume reduction and thus cost savings in transportation. 

However, at a maximum sludge storage deadline of just shy of eight months and three-fold cost in hydro to run the additional processing units, council looked to operations services general manager Shawn Berriault for justification on possible savings. 

“We’ll bring back a report with the different funding options,” explained Berriault to the committee. “When we started this process, council gave me the direction that we need to bring this in as economical as possible, and WSP has done that. We’ve gone down a bunch of rabbit holes trying to save money. I do feel very confident that we’ve looked at many different options.

“WSP listened to their comments, and the end product that we’re fine-tuning now is – I think – the best product that we could have done.”

Other members shared their concerns as well. Coun. Paul Raymond asked if the $37.3 million tag was the ceiling, with Whittaker stating there was always a risk for increased costs but that was the reason for the $5 contingency. Coun. Gerard LaChapelle stated that it would be better to incur the cost now than to delay the matter looking for savings down the road.

Mayor Ted Walker said that to tender the project immediately, a detailed financial report from staff would need to be expedited including debenture costs, length of term, and impact to rates.

“The project is very important,” said Walker, “and we keep turning away development and upgrades to homes (and other buildings and businesses).”

Whittaker replied: “We always hear on the news everything about (Ontario premier Doug Ford) wanting to build more and more homes; is now a good time to solicit him? Because you essentially have a shovel-ready project.”

Walker agreed, and added that a meeting with Simcoe North MP Adam Chambers and MPP Jill Dunlop as well as staff would be something to look into.

Information on the Victoria Harbour wastewater treatment plant capacity upgrade can be found on the Tay Township website. - 

The phase two expansion report by WSP can be found in the committee of the whole agenda on the Tay Township website.

Tay council meets for committee of the whole meetings every second Wednesday of the month, and regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Archives and livestreams of council meetings are available through the Tay Township YouTube channel.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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