SEWAGE IN THE CRD Letters: Halifax plant’s failure key part of sewage story

Design mistakes can be catastrophic, former wastewater plant operator says

The Halifax story was interesting, but I was surprised the most important part of their sewage story was missing. After less than one year of operation, the $54-million Halifax Wastewater Treatment Plant had a catastrophic failure in January 2009 and was out of commission until spring of 2010. Repair costs were about $11 million.

During an electrical power outage the back-up generators failed. As a result, a chain of events started from which the plant could not recover because of the way it had been designed, and for its lack of “fail-safe” systems. In just over 20 minutes it was flooded to a depth more than 26 feet.

It was a textbook example of what can go wrong, will go wrong. If a proper risk assessment had been conducted during the design phase, the disaster could have been easily avoided.

The new Halifax Wastewater Treatment Plant was initially a design-build-operate (P3) project with a foreign multinational leading the consortium through one of its subsidiaries. After they tried to change the terms of the operating contract, the city took back the operational component but retained the same consortium to design and build the project.

Surprisingly, Seaterra had selected (for the cancelled McLoughlin Point plant) a consortium that had as a key partner the same multinational responsible for the Halifax plant that failed.

Over the years I have operated many wastewater treatment plants in Ontario and B.C. and there are well-designed plants out there. But there are also, from an operational and ownership perspective, many poorly designed plants based from what I have seen.

Even one small design mistake can turn out to be very costly, as Halifax found out. Hopefully we can learn from the Halifax example.

You can Google “How the sewage plant broke” to read an excellent article on what went wrong and why.

James Lloyd


Just Posted

Invasive crab spotted near Sooke

Fisheries need more data to know if numbers are increasing

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Credit card frauds target local businesses: VicPD

Crime Reduction Unit investigating several frauds costing several businesses over $50,000

Fatherhood draws Victoria man to publish Tsimshian colouring book for children

Leon McFadden is working on 11 more books to finish the horoscope series

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

POLL: Will you be wearing pink to take a stand against bullying?

Schools and workplaces across Greater Victoria and around the province will be… Continue reading

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

Most Read