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Additional $482M needed for North End treatment plant upgrades: City of Winnipeg report

A City of Winnipeg report has asked for another half-billion dollars to cover the rapidly rising costs of the North End sewage treatment plant upgrades.

The money is needed to complete the plant’s biosolids facility, the second of three phases of the mammoth project, says a report heading to the city’s water and waste committee next Friday.

The report says council needs to approve an additional $482 million for the project — an increase it attributes primarily to rising construction costs.

Manager of engineering services Cynthia Wiebe writes in the report that approving the extra costs is necessary to demonstrate the city’s commitment to potential contract bidders and satisfy requirements of a federal capital infrastructure program.

“The costs have escalated sharply on this biosolids building,” water and waste committee chair Coun. Brian Mayes told reporters on Friday.

“The report is pretty blunt, saying, ‘Give us the approval. It’s not a budget referral — give us the approval, we gotta go.'”

Council initially approved a budget of nearly $553 million for the biosolids facility in 2019.

A 2022 Class 3 cost estimate — an estimate based on preliminary design work — projected the costs for the project would be closer to $912 million.

This latest estimate raises the projected cost to nearly $1.04 billion — an increase of $123 million over the 2022 estimate.

The increased costs would be funded from the city’s environmental projects reserve, retained earnings and debt.

‘Project has got to be done’: mayor

The upgrades to the treatment plant were originally called for by the provincial Clean Environment Commission in 2003, and were initially expected to be completed early in the 2010s.

The current timeline aims to have the project finished some time in the 2030s.

Mayor Scott Gillingham says the project is needed for three reasons: the city’s infrastructure is aging, it needs capacity to handle a growing population, and it needs to comply with provincial regulatory requirements to reduce the amount of nutrients flowing into Lake Winnipeg.

The mayor said he has spoken to both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Heather Stefanson about helping with the cost overruns. 

“This project has got to be done,” he told reporters on Friday.

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