Britannia water treatment plant wins P3 award 

Plant will remove 600,000 kilograms of water contaminants annually

By Clare Ogilvie

The Britannia Mine water treatment plant was recently recognized for excellence in infrastructure and development at the Canadian Council for Public-Private partnerships 2006 national Awards.

The awards are "testament to the fact that P3s save the taxpayers money, transfer risk, and add great value through design innovations and private sector ingenuity," Premier Gordon Campbell said in a release.

"We want to make sure we get the best value for every single tax dollar we invest in infrastructure projects across British Columbia and P3s will continue to help us accomplish that."

The treatment plant was one of three P3s recognized at the awards in Toronto. Also cited was the Kicking Horse Canyon project ($130 million) and the Golden Ears Bridge project ($800 million). The Britannia Mine Water Treatment Plant ($27.2 million) gained the gold award in the P3 council's infrastructure category, the Golden Ears Bridge received the gold award for project finance, and the Kicking Horse Canyon Phase Two project won the award of merit for project financing.

The awards were given out as part of a conference for P3s nationally. Participants at the conference also heard consultants Ernst and Young issue a report calling for better managed project flow and a standardized procurement process if Canada is to be truly competitive in this type of work.

"(B.C., Ontario, and Quebec )…  have established organizations to facilitate P3 procurements, but a general lack of consistency across jurisdictions remains a challenge,” said Tim Philpotts, leader of Ernst & Young's Canadian P3 practice in a release.

"Better coordination between governments and their private sector partners, standardized agreements and a predictable flow of projects will help build the expertise needed to create and manage large-scale projects and generate enough business for developers."

However, Ernst & Young believes Canada is making great strides toward a stable and efficient P3 market with the health care and transportation sectors showing the most promise.

In the past two years, the Sea to Sky Highway Improvement project, the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Care Project, and the Sierra Yoyo Desan Resource Road in northeastern B.C., have been cited in the project-financing category.

Said West Vancouver Garibaldi MLA Joan McIntyre: “The Britannia partnership addresses a significant environmental issue that has been neglected for decades. And as a public-private partnership, the project is both innovative and cost-effective.”

Edmonton-based EPCOR was chosen for the partnership in January 2005. The partnership approach will save the province over $10 million compared to completing the plant on its own, according to a statement from McIntyre.

Under the Britannia partnership, EPCOR financed, designed, and constructed the plant, which was completed in June of this year. The firm will operate the plant for the next 20 years with the province contributing an annual operation fee based on the amount of water processed in accordance with environmental regulations.

Contamination, known as acid rock drainage, once flowed from the mine untreated into Howe Sound. Now, contaminated water is diverted to the new water treatment plant. The plant is designed to treat four billion litres of mine water annually, removing approximately 600,000 kilograms of heavy metal contaminants.

"The result is a vast improvement to the marine environment in Howe Sound," said McIntyre.

The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships is a national non-partisan, non-profit organization founded in 1993 to conduct research, publish findings and to promote discussion of the benefits and risks of public-private partnerships in Canada and abroad. It is entirely funded by members who are divided almost equally between the public and private sectors.


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