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North Shore wastewater plant now expected to cost $3.86 billion

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The estimated cost of completing a troubled wastewater treatment plant on the North Shore has ballooned to $3.86 billion, officials revealed Friday.

Metro Vancouver announced the new estimate – described as a "realistic total cost" for delivering the long-awaited replacement project – following a review of the options that was assigned to a task force last fall.

Abandoning the project was never on the table, officials said, as a new plant capable of a higher level of treatment than the existing Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant is necessary to comply with federal regulations.

The North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant was initially scheduled for completion by December 2020 at a cost of $500 million. Metro Vancouver fired the original contractor, Acciona Wastewater Solutions, in October 2021, at which point the project's estimated cost had increased to more than $1 billion.

The two parties remain in a legal battle over the project in B.C. Supreme Court, where each side has filed a lawsuit against the other.

The new plant is now expected to be finished by 2030.

Jerry Dobrovolny, commissioner and chief administrative officer of Metro Vancouver, said the latest cost estimate takes into account several challenges that weren't present when the project was being planned some 13 years ago.

"We’ve seen tremendous changes in market with COVID, with inflation, with rising interest costs and severe labour shortages," Dobrovolny said Friday.

The commissioner said "significant work" was also needed to address "design and construction deficiencies" with the project.

Doberovolny acknowledged concerns around the property tax implications for the North Shore – the project is expected to cost each household approximately $725 annually over 30 years – but suggested the region will be working to secure additional funding from the provincial and federal governments.

The two levels of government previously made a combined contribution of $405 million in 2017.

In a statement to CTV News, District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little said he is “extremely frustrated” with the project.

“Today in particular, I am bothered about the additional costs that the district taxpayers will be forced to absorb to get the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant completed and operational,” Little said. “As I’ve said before, I am really disappointed in the state of the project that the previous contractor left behind.”

But the mayor also said he’s “relieved” the latest cost estimate has been shared publicly so that a conversation can begin around the impact on local constituents.

“I’m looking forward to these conversations and also to getting this project underway again,” Little added.

The plant is expected to serve more than 300,000 residents and businesses in the City of North Vancouver, the districts of West Vancouver and North Vancouver, the wx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation).

The latest $3.86 billion estimate also includes a "preliminary design for decommissioning the old Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant," according to a news release from Metro Vancouver.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ian Holliday

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