Probe needed to prevent repeat of B.C. sewage plant debacle, former auditor says

With the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant billions of dollars over budget, attention is turning to a similar project on the horizon.

probe needed to prevent repeat of b.c. sewage plant debacle, former auditor says

Metro Vancouver is funding a massive sewage plant upgrade in Richmond, and one critic warns its budget could also balloon without an audit to uncover the mistakes made on the North Shore.

probe needed to prevent repeat of b.c. sewage plant debacle, former auditor says
2:00 Metro Vancouver politicians call for federal auditor general to investigate construction overruns

The Iona Wastewater Treatment Plant in Richmond processes about 200 billion litres of wastewater every year.

Built in 1963, it needs upgrading. In May, Metro Vancouver’s board chair raised concerns about the project’s cost.

“(I) really worry about the Iona sewage treatment plant. It’s $12 billion now. Seems to be growing a billion every six months,” George Harvie said.

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But now Metro Vancouver says its chair was incorrect and that the plant will cost $9.9 billion, not $12 billion.

That $2.1-billion error coming as taxpayers face huge bills for the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant, currently estimated at $3 billion over budget.

probe needed to prevent repeat of b.c. sewage plant debacle, former auditor says
2:14 Metro Vancouver wastewater cost overruns ‘review’ surprises finance committee

“Transparency in local government is critical and obviously in this case even within the organization is very important,” Gordon Ruth, B.C.’s former auditor for local government told Global News.

Ruth served as B.C. auditor general for local government for five years, a position eliminated by the BC NDP.

He said it’s important to know what went wrong at the North Shore plant, so mistakes aren’t repeated.

“If there are issues that haven’t been dealt with appropriately then you could learn from that and the audit and then those lessons could be moved forward to the Iona treatment plant which is an even bigger project,” he said.

probe needed to prevent repeat of b.c. sewage plant debacle, former auditor says
4:59 Metro Vancouver calls independent review into North Shore wastewater plant overruns

On Thursday, New Westminster Coun. Daniel Fontaine joined six other regional municipal councillors in calling for a federal audit of the North Shore project, adding that he too has concerns about Iona.

“That project is three times the cost of the North Shore project, so that’s why it’s so important for the auditor general to come in, lift up the hood and see what went wrong and see we don’t repeat those mistakes yet again,” he told Global News.

Both the federal and provincial auditors general say they’ll consider doing audits of the North Shore wastewater treatment plant.

However, there has been no indication as to when they’ll decide on whether to proceed. Metro Vancouver has also indicated it will do a review.

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