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Engineering contractor files $20M lawsuit against North Van sewage plant builder

Work remains stalled and a stop work order remains in place on the massive new sewage treatment plant being built in North Vancouver.
sewage plant stop work

Work remains stalled and a stop work order remains in place on the massive new sewage treatment plant being built in North Vancouver.

The District of North Vancouver slapped a stop-work order on the site April 10, after the company building the plant, Acciona, failed to meet certain requirements under the Building Code, according to the municipality.

Acciona is also facing a $20-million lawsuit from Tetra Tech Canada Inc., formerly one of the project’s lead geotechnical engineering contractors.

Tetra Tech filed the lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court April 4, against Acciona and the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District, which owns the land on behalf of the Metro Vancouver regional government, alleging wrongful termination of a contract by Acciona on Feb. 22, 2019.

Tetra Tech was contracted to work on the engineering design of the project two years earlier, according to the statement of claim.

Under that contract, Acciona was to provide Tetra Tech with data from the GVSDD and “would reasonably accept and act on Tetra Tech’s professional engineering recommendations,” according to the lawsuit.

But the lawsuit alleges, Acciona breached that contract by “unilaterally and without advance notice to Tetra Tech, fundamentally changing the scope and nature of the project by abandoning the design accepted by GVSDD.”

Tetra Tech alleges Acciona also failed to provide it with revised information from GVSDD “to take into account that the subsurface conditions were not as indicated in geotechnical reports supplied to Tetra Tech” and demanded a “structural design that did not comply with GVSDD’s seismic parameters.”

The engineering company’s lawsuit alleges Acciona also pressured Tetra Tech to “proceed with the design of a smaller capacity odour control system and with other reductions in capacity which have the potential to adversely impact the overall performance of the wastewater facility, contrary to the expectations and requirements of the GVSDD.”

Tetra Tech also alleges that Acciona failed to “reasonably accept and act on critical project risks” identified by Tetra Tech’s engineers, including “the high risk of being unable to fit the equipment and processing requirements of GVSDD within the confines of the Acciona revised and restricted site”, the “risk to the design of foundations and preload values should unauthorized structural loads be added or the site footprint be modified” and “the risk associated with Acciona’s premature removal of preload from the site.”

Changes to the design by Acciona resulted in “significant delays and inefficiencies” that were outside of Tetra Tech’s control, the lawsuit alleges.

Tetra Tech claims in the lawsuit it is owed just under $20 million for work on the project.

Neither Acciona nor the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District have filed a response to the lawsuit and none of the claims have been proven in court.

Both Acciona and Metro Vancouver declined to comment on the lawsuit.

According to the District of North Vancouver, the stop work order remains in place and discussions between Acciona, Metro and the municipality are continuing.

The new treatment plant in North Vancouver is being built by Acciona under a $525-million fixed-price design-build contract for Metro Vancouver, awarded in April 2017.

Costs of the project – including the treatment plant, new trunk lines, pump station and new 170-metre pipe connecting the new plant to the existing outfall in Burrard Inlet – were originally projected at $700 million but have now been budgeted at just under $778 million.