Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for December 31, 2013

Water treatment plant’s troubles continue

Problems keep adding up for the operators of Dawson City’s wastewater treatment plant.

By Christopher Reynolds on December 31, 2013 at 3:10 pm


Photo by Dan Davidson

LITIGATION LAUNCHED – Dawson Citysʼ new secondary treatment plant for wastewater is the subject of a major lawsuit.

Problems keep adding up for the operators of Dawson City’s wastewater treatment plant.

Corix Water Systems is being sued for nearly $3 million by Han Construction, subcontracted in 2009 to build the facility.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of multiple public scoldings against Corix — the general contractor and site runner — by municipal officials this year.

The chastisements note the secondary treatment facility allowed mould buildup in the plant, toxicity issues in its sewage discharge and a major malfunction “with the potential to threaten the safety of our drinking wells,” according to Department of Public Works reports.

Han, a Dawson-based contractor, alleges the B.C.-based Corix made changes to the subcontract which created further costs for the builder.

After completing work on the facility, Han says, Corix then “wrongfully terminated” the subcontract.

It says Corix evicted workers from the site and left the company with roughly $2.8 million owing on an agreement worth nearly $5.5 million, according to a statement of claim filed Dec. 20 in Yukon Supreme Court.

“Han promptly, diligently and reasonably performed the subcontract work in accordance with the change directives ... but Han and Corix failed to reach agreement on the corresponding adjustment to the subcontract price and subcontract time,” the lawsuit states.

It also claims Corix received full payment from the territorial government to cover all building costs, including the changes, but did not pass along the amount due.

Han is seeking “damages for lost profits” or, alternately, “compensation from Corix on a quantum meruit basis” — a legal term denoting reasonable payment for labour and materials furnished.

A representative for Corix said the company could not offer comment.

This is not Corix’s first plant-related difficulty.

Mould issues at the wastewater facility, which opened in August 2012, caused the territory’s occupational health and safety branch to issue a remediation order in September.

“Our safety officers discovered significant mould issues in Dawson’s wastewater treatment plant during an occupational health and safety inspection in August,” Richard Mostyn, the public affairs liaison at the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, told the Star three months ago.

Also, effluent samples from last June and July passed their toxicity tests, but “testing results have indicated failures in the ‘fecal coliform’, ‘biological oxygen demand’, and ‘total suspended solids’ parameters,” a Public Works report stated.

“In my view, the above failures are attributed to the sewage strength changed from dilute winter strength and the plant’s inability to adapt,” said Norm Carlson, the town’s superintendent of Public Works.

The degree of non-compliance with water standards did not pass muster with Dawson’s mayor.

“Clearly, this plant’s not quite ready for prime time,” Mayor Wayne Potoroka said.

As far back as February, a major incident at the plant left officials concerned it wasn’t working properly.

Carlson reported that the sanitary system malfunctioned Feb. 2.

“The entire process train plugged up with sludge, causing a significant amount of wastewater to flood the degritting room and pour out the doors into the adjacent parking lot,” he wrote in a report to council that month.

“This blockage caused the entire sanitary system in Dawson to back up. Public Works responded to the Corix operator’s call for help and together we managed to bring the situation under control.

“While such an incident has the potential to threaten the safety of our drinking wells, the prompt response of our staff maintained the wells’ safety,” he stated.

Beginning in 2012, Carlson’s reports have stressed he feels his staff have not been sufficiently trained on the workings of the plant.

Under the memorandum of understanding, the plant was to be in operation for a year while Corix trained locals to run it and determined the actual operating costs, which have risen substantially since this project was first announced.

The City of Dawson did not take over its operations and costs last August, as initially planned.

The plant had not been able to achieve three steady months of trouble-free operation — the litmus test — consistently failing water quality assessments.

Carlson’s concern, outlined in a Dec. 5 report and echoed in council members’ discussion on it, was that success in January would not be a true test of the plant’s operational readiness.

Previous discussions at the council table have expressed the opinion that the real test of the plant would be to have it operate trouble-free for a year, particularly during the more intense summer period.

That’s when the population and number of businesses creating effluent is at its highest — with toilets flushing, hotel linens dirtying and RV holding tanks dumping — and when bleeding is not in effect.

– With files from Dan Davidson in Dawson City.

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