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North Cowichan chooses firm for next steps to move sewage outflow

City of Duncan will have to concur
Work continues on plans for a new pipe that will see treated effluent from the Joint Utilities Board’s sewage treatment plant near Duncan diverted away from the Cowichan River and Cowichan estuary (pictured) to an outflow site in Satellite Channel. (File photo)

Parsons Incorporated, a Victoria-based engineering consulting firm, is being eyed to provide the next steps in the approximately $42-million Joint Utility Board Outfall Relocation Project.

North Cowichan’s council voted at its meeting on March 3 to award a $6.1-million contract for Parsons Inc. to provide the design, construction oversight and administration for the project that will see a new pipe from the Joint Utility Board’s sewage treatment plant near Duncan to the proposed new outfall location in Satellite Channel, outside of Cowichan Bay.

As North Cowichan and the City of Duncan co-own the sewage treatment plant, awarding the contract to Parsons Inc. requires the approval of both councils, and it’s expected that the City of Duncan will discuss it at its next meeting on March 15.


Clay Reitsma, North Cowichan’s senior manager of engineering, said in a report that awarding the contract will allow staff to proceed with the route selection, detailed design, and construction oversight phases of the project.

He said three engineering firms responded to the Requests for Proposals for the contract and a three-person review panel evaluated the proposals based on the proponent’s understanding of the project, their corporate qualifications and capacity, their project team’s qualifications and proposed level of effort, as well as their bid price.

“Based on the results of the evaluation, Parsons had the highest overall score,” Reitsma said.

“Parsons bid of $6,105,722 is in the range of what staff would expect to see for a project with this complexity level.”

Coun. Kate Marsh thanked Reitsma at the meeting for the hard work over the years by him and his staff to move the project along.

“The contract price is less than I was expecting, but this is not the whole picture [of the project],” she said.


The sewage treatment plant is a hybrid secondary/tertiary facility that treats wastewater from North Cowichan, Duncan, Cowichan Bay, Eagle Heights and Cowichan Tribes.

The plant, located on Cowichan Tribes lands, is operated by North Cowichan and discharges highly treated effluent into the Cowichan River.

From there, the effluent flows down the river and through the ecologically sensitive Cowichan estuary into Cowichan Bay.

This project will relocate the outfall from the river to a deep-sea site in Satellite Channel, which has considerably more dilution for the effluent.

The change has been prompted by several years of severe drought that have drastically reduced summer flows in the Cowichan River, leaving some of the diffusers that dilute wastewater coming from the Joint Utilities Board’s sewage lagoons high and dry.

A lease agreement with Cowichan Tribes for the land where the treatment plant is located includes a commitment to move the outfall from the river by 2021.

After extensive consultations with the public, stakeholders and First Nations, placing a pipe along the Westcan Terminal Causeway, or through Cowichan Tribes Reserve, are among a number of routes for the land-based section of pipe that are under consideration.

Reitsma said the proposed routes for the pipeline are to be subjected to a more thorough evaluation during conceptual design.

“Now that the outfall terminus location and potential pipeline routes have been identified, the next step is to retain a team of experts to identify the optimum pipeline route and provide detailed design, tendering, and construction administration and oversight services for the proposed works,” he told council before it decided to award the contract to Parsons Inc.

“The proposed works include an effluent pump station, the terrestrial pipeline, and a marine pipeline.”

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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