Skip to content

Council defers vote on upgrades to east end pumping stations

Council waiting for information from public works
2018-01-13 Porcupine LakeWinter MH
The odor, potential risks for health and the environment, and the overall future of the lake are some of the worries that Porcupine and South Porcupine residents have about sewage bypasses into Porcupine Lake. Maija Hoggett/TimminsToday

A vote on the contract for upgrades to pumping stations in the city’s east end has been deferred.

With upgrades to the pump stations ongoing, council is also looking to re-enter into an agreement with BZ Environmental to do water quality testing at Porcupine Lake.

The testing is a requirement of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change director’s order, which also set dates for the city to complete the upgrades, issued to the city last year.

Currently, sewage is bypassed into Porcupine Lake when the system’s capacity is exceeded. According to a report to council last year, this happens in ‘certain precipitation events and spring melt conditions’.

There are six pumping stations in the system, and a two-phase approach to upgrade it.

The first phase is building Pumping Station 4 and installing two stormwater equalization tanks, both of which are located on Highway 101 just east of the Whitney Arena, and upgrading force mains.

Work on phase one started in 2014, however ground-settling and legal issues have contributed to it not yet being completed.

Phase two is upgrading the mechanical, electrical and instrumentation systems, along with other work, at the remaining five pump stations.

Earlier this month, a report to council revealed that the lowest bid for the project is about 67 per cent higher than what the city’s consultant predicted.

While staff recommended accepting the $16.8 million bid by Northec Construction, which is about $7 million more than the consultant’s estimate, some councillors asked staff to look at breaking the upgrades into smaller projects.

“I’m thinking that we should go back to the drawing table, that wouldn’t take a lot of time, and chop up this contract into three,” said Coun. Pat Bamford at a meeting earlier this month.

By having contractors work simultaneously, his hope is that the work would be done faster.

“It’s my ward and I spent…my 11 years working to make sure that Porcupine Lake is clean with the cross-connections, with this reservoir and now with these pumps. But quite frankly I think myself for sure, and I think everyone else, has a responsibility to the general taxpayer and a $7-million extra cost I think is worth taking a second look,” he said.

Manager of Public Utilities Steve Kukulka said having different contractors do the work at the same time is high-risk.

The city also needed to check with its lawyer to see if the work could be separated after it has already been tendered.

At last week’s council meeting, the upgrades were discussed in-camera. When it was time to vote on awarding the project to the contractor, Bamford asked for the decision to be deferred until public works gets back to them.

Until the upgrades to the system are finished, water monitoring and reporting needs to be done.

For BZ Environmental to continue testing the water at Porcupine Lake, a staff report says it will cost just over $125,000 plus HST for four years.

The annual breakdown is: $30,770 in 2018; $30,770 in 2019; $31,285 in 2020; and $32,326 in 2021. When required for bypass activity, the cost is $1,417 each.

Because the city didn’t meet the timelines set out in an MOECC provincial officer order in 2012, the ministry issued a director’s order last year with new deadlines to complete the system upgrades.

For phase one, the deadline is Feb. 28.

Recently, Kukulka told council that work at the site stopped after they ran into issues late last year.

He is talking to a specialist to make sure the issue encountered is localized. When construction restarts, he said there is about two to three months of work remaining.

For phase two, the deadline is Oct. 31, 2020.

Since the director’s order was issued MOECC spokesperson Lindsay Davidson said the ministry has met monthly with city staff.

If the city doesn’t meet the deadlines, she said “The ministry can take further enforcement action that could include referring the matter to its investigation and enforcement branch.”

While she said an investigation could lead to charges, the penalty would be decided by the court.

Earlier this year, a group of residents concerned about the future of Porcupine Lake met with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), a non-profit specialty clinic funded by Legal Aid Ontario, to look at potential options to clean up the lake.

With the sewage bypasses, the residents are concerned about the odour, potential risks for health and the environment, and the overall future of the lake.

CELA says it is still gathering information and plans to have another meeting with residents to talk about the next steps.

Maija Hoggett

About the Author: Maija Hoggett

Maija Hoggett is an experienced journalist who covers Timmins and area
Read more