P3 Process Is Risky For Sewage

Letter To The Editor
Times Colonist
March 24, 2010

After just one year of operation, a $54-million Halifax wastewater treatment plant had a catastrophic failure in January 2009 and was flooded. It will be out of commission until May. Repair costs are estimated at $11 million.

The new plant was initially a P3 project with the French multinational Suez (Degremont) leading the consortium. After Suez 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. During a power outage, the backup generators failed, starting a chain of events from which the plant could not recover.

With a P3, the price is set before the design is even started; therefore the project will be designed to fit the budget. To maximize profit or stay within budget, cutting corners will be sure to follow, as Halifax sadly found out.

If the Capital Regional District chooses to go the privatization route, you can bet Suez will be involved with one of the bidders. Having worked as a wastewater plant operator for many years, I know that the design-bid-build approach with public operation is the best option available. The B.C. Liberals forced the CRD to consider privatization as an option, but the CRD is under no obligation to go that route.

Jim Lloyd