Against all evidence, Harbour Solutions is declared a success

Carl Yates still refuses to make public forensic audit of sewage plant failure.

With much fanfare, Halifax Water president Carl Yates appeared before city council Tuesday and announced that Harbour Solutions, the new sewage system, is at “total completion.” One after another, councillors liberally dished out accolades, patted themselves on the back and made unsupported allegations that the media somehow misreported the story.

But while the largest public works project in Halifax history stayed on budget---total costs came it at $330 million, compared to a projected $333 million---Harbour Solutions is by no means an unblemished success story.

The project will be forever marred by the PR and environmental disaster of the January 14, 2009 malfunction of the main Halifax sewage plant, causing about 100 million litres of raw sewage to flow into the harbour each day. The plant is now working as designed, but the fix took about a year and cost $10.9 million; most of that cost was covered by insurance, but ratepayers are on the hook for $500,000. And while Yates celebrates “total completion,” he still refuses to make public the $100,000 forensic audit of the plant malfunction, saying there is “a small lawsuit” related to the failure that has yet to be resolved. Without that audit, the public still has no way to know who was at fault for the plant failure.

The lawsuit related to the plant failure is not the only legal action related to Harbour Solutions: there remains an active lawsuit with regard to the Pier A Pumping Station, the structure at the corner of Barrington and Inglis Streets that has repeatedly spewed raw sewage into surrounding apartment buildings. Yates also refuses to release documents related to that malfunction.

The Freshwater Brook sewer line flows into the pumping station; Yates has always maintained that the replacement of that line, which saw south end streets dug up for the last two years, was unrelated to the pumping station failure, but councillors Tuesday suggested that it was. The conversation was cryptic, as council discusses the lawsuit in secret, but the line was replaced specifically to divert rain water away from the pumping station, which tends to overflow during storms.

Whether it is considered a design success or not, Harbour Solutions was built to “primary” treatment standards, and so fails to meet newly announced “secondary” standards set by the federal government.

As councillor Linda Mosher points out, council had directed that Harbour Solutions meet much higher environmental standards, but due to cost cutting and diversion of funds, some to the Freshwater Brook project, those standards were not met.

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