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Broken parts and disagreement delaying Cove Bay Water Plant

Plant was scheduled to come online nearly a year ago
Cove Bay Water Treatment Plant
The Cove Bay Water Treatment Plant serves Bowen's largest water district – 600-odd connections on Bowen's east side.

A series of mechanical and design failures, along with prolonged “finger-pointing” has been responsible for the Cove Bay Water Treatment Plant continuing to remain offline. It was originally going to be operational May 17, 2021.

“It’s unfortunate for everybody, obviously,” said director of engineering Patrick Graham at a meeting of the Cove Bay Water System Local Advisory Committee (CBWS) last week. “Essentially we’ve had some repeated equipment failures since last May when we were getting pretty close to having the plant up and running.”

One issue is one of the two filter modules is damaged. While the plant can run at reduced capacity with one – and did briefly last year – this option was lost when the plant’s immersion heater also failed.

Fixing the filter module will require about three days of on-site work, while Graham says a new immersion heater has become available to order and should arrive soon.

But further complicating the problem is the necessity of a ‘break head’ tank and pump retrofit, which allows the filters to discharge to an atmospheric pressure line instead of directly to the reservoir.

The timeframe on this particular is unknown. “We still don’t have design solutions that everyone’s on the same page with. As soon as we have that then we know what the scope of the work is and what we’re needing to order,” says Graham.

This holdup stems back to the tender process, when the municipality enquired if an existing break head tank and pump they had would work. Graham says they were told this was a “good idea” by operator Purifics, and that the equipment could handle the water pressure. This later turned out to be incorrect.

“That’s one of the many sources of finger-pointing that we’ve had,” said Graham.

WSP, the engineering firm in charge of the project, is seeing if there’s a workaround which could keep costs down. But Purifics hasn’t been on board with the idea so far.

“The person we’ve been dealing with at Purifics tends to be very inflexible,” says Graham, noting they’re of the mindset of, ‘That’s not the ideal solution, here’s what you need to do.’

“That’s going to cost three times as much,” says Graham. “Is there a way we can avoid reworking all of that?” But he did add he expected the sides to come to a resolution this week.

Aside from the failed parts and negotiation holdup, Graham says things are going well. “Other than these aspects, we’re confident in the rest of the process. We’re not far away once these issues are resolved, the remaining commissioning should not be a long process,” he says.

There still isn’t an exact date the plant is expected to be running, but Graham says he hopes the number is in months rather than years.

“If we can have this resolved before people get their property tax bills and see a parcel tax for a service they don’t have yet – we’re doing everything we can to avoid that scenario,” he says.

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