How North Korea contributed to delays in West Kelowna's $75 million water treatment plant | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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How North Korea contributed to delays in West Kelowna's $75 million water treatment plant

Work on West Kelowna's $75 million water treatment plant is almost complete. This photo was taken last month.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of West Kelowna

The $75 million Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant in West Kelowna is now more than a year behind its original target.

Taking on such a massive construction project in the post-COVID world led to delays caused by labour shortages and the world-wide disruption in the supply chain, the city says.

“A lot of the specialized equipment comes from overseas,” Allen Fillion, West Kelowna’s director of engineering and operations, told “We did everything, from the city’s perspective, that we thought we could do to try to avoid those delays. Some of this equipment we pre-purchased even before the contract was awarded in an effort to try to do everything possible to avoid these types of delays but, even having done that, we still experienced some significant delays in some of the equipment delivery.”

Equipment came from countries like Germany, Sweden and Turkey.

“One piece that came from Sweden ended up in North Korea somehow,” Fillion said. “That was one of the ones that was quite significantly late. Just weird things like that happening, with the challenges that are going on in the shipping world.”

That was a skimmer that is used to clear off larger clumps of organic material that rise to the top of the water tanks when air is injected into them.

The water treatment plant is the largest and most expensive construction project ever done by the City of West Kelowna.

The original expected completion date was the summer of 2022. Now it’s hoped that, after years of intermittent water advisories, clean water will be flowing into 8,500 homes early this fall.

The project, and budget, were upset from the start when the province refused to let the city build the water treatment plant on provincial land near the Rose Valley reservoir.

That led to the purchase of another parcel of land for $1 million plus an added $7.4 million to blast and level the site.

READ MORE: New $75M West Kelowna water treatment will only cost users $34 more annually on tax bill

That work began in the spring of 2020. In February 2021, Maple Reinders Constructors was awarded the main contract to build the plant.

“Once the contract was in place, their schedule was for the spring of this year,” Fillion said.

That, obviously, has not happened.

“They had hoped they would be able to ramp up the number of bodies on site at key times but they weren’t able to do that,” Fillion said.

The plant is expected to be complete in late April or early May. It will then take a few months to “commission” the plant, meaning crews will make sure that all the systems are working correctly and drinking water standards are met.

Construction has started on water lines from the plant to storage tanks for West Kelowna Estates and the Pritchard/Sunnyside areas. They currently get their water pumped up from Okanagan Lake.

Water lines are being buried along Westlake Road.
Water lines are being buried along Westlake Road.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of West Kelowna

It’s expected those pipelines will be in place by the early fall as well.

Possibly starting as early as next week, flushing of water mains will begin in an effort to clear turbidity out of them. That’s a process that will take some months to complete and will continue even after the new system is operational.

So, what’s the extra cost of all these delays?

“The contract, for the most part, is a fixed price contract,” Fillion said. “When they bid on the job, they provide their price. That’s the price they’re held to and the challenge is on them to deliver within that price and earn a profit.”

There is also a “liquidated damages” clause in the contract, meaning the contractor has to pay money to the city for every day the job is delayed. That pays for the ongoing costs to the city of staff and consultant time.

“Certainly there’s incentive for them to get done as soon as they can, because it’s in their best interest financially," Fillion said.

The $75 million cost is offset by a $41 million grant from senior governments.

The terms of that grant required completion by the end of this month but that has been extended at least until the end of May.

“The province toured the plant and they were quite happy with the progress that’s been made because they, obviously, have grants throughout the whole province and they’re seeing delays in everybody’s projects because of what’s happened with COVID and labour challenges,” Fillion said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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