Sewage plant up the creek
Town presses for repair on $7.1 million project

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Aug 07/00) - It's an unremarkable building beside the sewage lagoon, off the road to the dump.

It certainly doesn't look like a modern $7.1 million sewage treatment plant that's been sitting idle for almost a year.

The reason? The cement tanks leak.

The Town of Iqaluit has spent most of its budgeted $7.1 million on the plant -- except for $590,000 -- the amount leftover to fix the problem.

But town manager Rick Butler says he isn't worried. The town has taken the case to the bonding company which insured the project and he expects the necessary repairs will be done.

"We have a pretty good case," said Butler. "Nothing in life is guaranteed, but I think it will work out in our favour."

The treatment plant was built by engineering firm Hill Murray from Victoria, B.C.

Construction began in June of 1998, but ran into trouble last fall after the faulty cement was discovered.

Hill Murray had hired a B.C.-based company, Quigg Construction Ltd., to build the tanks. After the flaw was discovered, Quigg proposed a quick $120,000 solution to mend the tanks, which involved spraying the inside structure of the tanks with a rubber seal to ensure they remained water-tight.

But a third party, Dillon Consulting -- originally brought in by the town to oversee the paper work -- said the repair wouldn't work.

Hill Murray president Trevor Hill insisted the most economically viable decision had to be made.

"Our proposed mend costs $120,000," he said. "(Dillon's proposal) costs $500,000."

In April of this year, the town brought in yet another engineering firm who agreed with Dillon's proposal. Still, Hill Murray and Quigg don't want to mend the tanks to the more elaborate specifications.

In a letter to Hill dated July 26, the town accused Hill Murray of being in default of its contract and pressed them to fix the tanks.

"The municipality requires the design builder to correct the default in accordance with the specifications (outlined by the outside firms)," stated the letter.

But Hill said Quigg and Hill Murray were not bound to fix the tanks according to the suggested specifications because the opinions came from sources not bound by the contract.

The town -- because their contract with Hill Murray is in default -- has taken the case to the bonding company, which insures the contract for $1.3 million. But time is not on the town's side. They need to resolve the bond issue before the ice freezes, otherwise sealift vessels won't be able to bring the necessary equipment in to repair the tanks.

"Our plan is to get the treatment plant done by the end of the year," said Matthew Hough, town engineer and administrator. "We are working to have the bonding issue resolved before September."

Butler said the town does have another plan should the bond not come through in a timely manner, but he refused to comment on the second option.

"We do have a plan B, but there's no sense in talking about hypotheticals right now."

"The taxpayer will not have to foot this bill," added Butler, promising that problems like this will never happen again.