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$325.6M Buffalo Pound Water Treatment plant overcomes hurdles as project progresses

Grant Cameron
$325.6M Buffalo Pound Water Treatment plant overcomes hurdles as project progresses
COURTESY BUFFALO POUND WATER TREATMENT CORPORATION — Work is well underway as part of the large-scale, $325.6-million renewal of Saskatchwan’s Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant. The project team is working on construction of an administration building and chemical building, as well as bypass and water ponds.

A single, yellow tower crane hovers over the dusty construction site at the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant in Saskatchewan, where a large-scale, $325.6-million renewal is well underway.

In one area, a partially constructed rectangular building is taking shape. Structural steel has been erected, metal cladding for the walls has been put in place and the roof has been installed.

The site, an hour’s drive east of Regina and 30 kilometres northeast of Moose Jaw, is a beehive of activity these days. There are more than a dozen contractors onsite with nearly 200 workers.

The project team is working on construction of an administration building and chemical building, as well as bypass and water ponds.

The upgrades will modernize technology at the plant, improve residual water management practices and increase the capacity of the facility, enabling the plant to operate for another 25 years.

The facility provides water to Moose Jaw and Regina. The renewal includes process improvements that will provide taste and odour removal year-round.

A joint venture of Aecon and Graham Construction are working on the project. They are responsible for demolition, earthworks, structural fabrication, electrical and instrumentation work, and the construction of concrete foundations and commercial buildings.

The Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association has certified the water treatment plant to the bronze level in recognition of its safety efforts. Completion of the venture is slated for 2025.

Construction on the project began in 2022. The plant, originally commissioned in 1955, has previously undergone three major capacity and process improvements over the years.

Moose Jaw City Council heard recently that the present project is about 50 per cent complete but is three months behind schedule. It remains within its contingency budget, with about 70 per cent of the project budget spent.

Ryan Johnson, president and CEO of the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Corporation, told council the installation of critical items is still on schedule.

“As of right now, we’re still within budget and we still have contingency remaining,” he said.

At the end of the project, there will be some commercial disputes that will have to be resolved, he noted, but there is still room in the contingency to cover the items.

Johnson presented the organization’s 2023 annual report at the meeting and explained to council there have been a couple of minor disruptions to service due to the construction project, but they have been mitigated and the project team is continuing operations as normal.

A tricky part of the project has been maintaining water treatment plant operations while construction crews and corporation staff continue their work.

Johnson said there is a large presence of joint venture staff at the plant along with the regular staff, so there is significant disruption to normal duties, but both groups are working as best they can.

To minimize the impact on the day-to-day operation of the plant, the project is being carried out using a “process by process” staging system. The project team is also co-ordinating with operating staff at the plant and planning work well ahead of time. Plant shutdowns have been required but the advance planning has allowed Regina and Moose Jaw to fill up their reservoirs.

Because of the work, the plant cannot produce full flow capacity, so officials are closely monitoring the flow capacity while it is under construction. They are also keeping an eye on water levels in Lake Diefenbaker and Buffalo Pound Lake.

If there is a long period of hot, dry weather, restrictions might have to be put in place or cities might be asked to temporarily manage their water use.

Some area residents are worried about possible shortages as there was a drought in southern Saskatchewan last year and the volume of water in Lake Diefenbaker – which feeds into Buffalo Pound Lake – was lower.

The corporation is working with Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency, which manages water bodies across the province, to address drainage issues as there are also concerns that a drainage project approved without consultation could affect water quality in Buffalo Pound Lake.

Last year, the agency allowed more runoff water to be added to Lake Diefenbaker as it is not likely to receive similar runoff volumes in the future. The agency wanted to ensure the lake was topped up. The treatment plant pulls water from Diefenbaker into Buffalo Pound and the rest goes to Saskatoon.

Officials say they are not worried about the water supply as both bodies of water still have plenty of supply.

Buffalo Pound Lake has three years of domestic water supply available while Diefenbaker has 18 years of supply. It is not expected to be a concern once work at the plant is completed.

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