Sewage sludge plant bidding opens

The messy business of handling the sludge left over from Greater Victoria’s proposed sewage treatment system is now open to bidders.

The civilian commission in charge of building the $783-million sewage project has started the tendering process for a biosolids sludge centre at Hartland Landfill, as well as a separate contract to dispose of the sludge.

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Companies can submit bids, including alternate locations, until March 14, 2014. Four bidders will be shortlisted to make final pitches in May, according to the Seaterra commission.

The civilian commission wants to select one company by the end of 2014, begin construction in April 2015 and complete the biosolids sludge plant by July 2017.

In addition to construction, the winning company would operate the facility for 25 years, according to the request for qualifications document. That’s a requirement of the cost-sharing from the federal and provincial governments.

The contract also includes building an 18-kilometre pipe from a proposed sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt.

The treatment process will dump clean water into the ocean and pipe the leftover sludge to Hartland.

Companies can propose a different site, but they would have to already own the land and would be responsible for any rezoning and site approvals, said project director Albert Sweetnam.

Capital Regional District director Vic Derman has called on the commission to explore gasification technology, which could be cheaper, require less land and also handle kitchen scraps and garbage.

However, project staff have called the technology unproven for sludge.

Companies will be allowed to pitch technologies in their bids and provide five examples of their work on projects of similar size to Greater Victoria’s, the request for qualifications document said.

The Hartland plant will process the sludge, but how the sludge is disposed of afterward is part of a separate contract.

Companies may want to truck the processed sludge to a different landfill, burn it as fuel, burn it in a pulp facility or burn it in an incinerator or gasifier, Sweetnam said.

Putting the sludge on land as fertilizer is not allowed, after CRD politicians voted to uphold a ban on the practice in October out of fears it could contaminate local soil.

Seaterra had warned the land ban might mean the CRD needs to spend an extra $38 million to build its own incinerator to burn the sludge.

“We’d only build our own waste-to-energy facility if we get no takers for the biosolids,” Sweetnam said.

Meanwhile, the tendering for the McLoughlin treatment plant is continuing. Seaterra had planned to pick one of three shortlisted companies for McLoughlin by Feb. 28; however, that may be pushed back two months because of a zoning dispute with Esquimalt.

The civilian Seaterra commission has also put to tender a $1.6-million communications contract for the next phase of the sewage project.

That work had been done by local firm Acumen Communications, but Seaterra directors balked last month at direct-awarding a new, larger, contract to Acumen without competition.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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