Bombshell lawsuit shocks Winnipeg councillors
City of Winnipeg lawsuit alleges critical failures at $300M Deacon water treatment plant
City councillors Janice Lukes and Brian Mayes say they were surprised to learn the contents of a City of Winnipeg lawsuit against engineering giant AECOM Canada and nine other companies over damages that occurred years ago at the $300 million Deacon water treatment facility.
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Damages alleged in the lawsuit represent millions of dollars, said Lukes, who first read the court documents just over two weeks ago.
"I don't recall hearing a thing about it prior," she said.
"To me a 300 million dollar project that's gone south, with millions in lawsuit, that's something to talk about," said Lukes.
The City of Winnipeg filed the lawsuit Dec. 7, 2015. Court documents allege several problems began surfacing at the state-of-the art water treatment plant when it was put into service in 2009.
Among them, roofing failures in the main building and the plant's sodium hypochlorite and chemical storage buildings that lead to "significant heaving of the roofing system" and leakage.
The lawsuit also claims two explosions occurred in the plant's sodium hypochlorite building through no fault of the city. The first explosion occurred during an "acid washing procedure" in August 2012 and a second occurred during a routine plumbing repair in February 2013, court documents say.
Fearing for employee safety, the City of Winnipeg now purchases sodium hypochlorite (a compound when combined with water creates liquid bleach) rather than producing the disinfecting agent itself, court documents say.
Additionally, in August 2013 a catastrophic failure occurred when a generator seized due to "stray electrical currents," alleges the city.
Surprise lawsuit undermines trust: Lukes
Lukes, who serves as chair of the standing policy committee on infrastructure renewal and public works, calls the allegations "astounding." That she and other politicians were not made aware of the extensive issues at the water treatment plant works to undermine trust between city councillors and the public service, said Lukes.
"People need to communicate better," she said.
St. Vital councillor and water and waste chair, Brian Mayes, agrees. He notes, however, previous councillors may have been briefed.
"I should have been informed," he said. "It's possible someone [from the city administration] briefed politicians on the previous council."
Mayes said politicians are now getting a closer look at the Water and Waste Department after the creation of a new oversight committee which he chairs.
"Water and waste issues won't be an afterthought behind snow clearing and ticketing," he said.
CBC is still waiting for comment from AECOM Canada.