Hawkesbury Wastewater Treatment Plant: Enacting High-efficiency Upgrades

Asco Construction Ltd. (Asco) broke ground in 2011 on a major upgrade project at Hawkesbury Wastewater Treatment Plant in Hawkesbury, Ontario. After the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) found the plant out of compliance in 2007, the regional officials determined that an overhaul was in order. The town put the project out to bid in 2010 and accepted Asco’s value-added low bid in early 2011.

“We broke ground in May 2011,” notes Jason Assaly, vice president of Asco. “We’re about 20 months into the job now and we’ll be finishing up in December 2013.” Asco’s team – comprised of experienced laborers and managers, as well as a handful of trusted subcontractors – has been hard at work piecing together the upgrades while the plant continues to operate. “Most of this project is upgrades to the existing facility,” explains Assaly. “We’re putting up three new buildings and modifying existing structures with upgraded equipment.”

A Value-added Solution

Aside from providing upgrades that increase performance and safety, Asco’s team is increasing the plant’s efficiency. OCWA representatives predict that the plant will save the town around $500,000 in its first three years of operation after completion. Additionally, the team’s bid struck 5 percent lower than officials estimated, so it is saving money upfront, as well. The plant upgrade’s total cost sits around $35 million, with provincial and federal contributions covering $24 million combined. According to Assaly, the town of Hawkesbury is funding the rest through budget reserves and loans.

The budget fit is impressive, especially considering the complex nature of the project. “The plant is occupied and fully operational,” explains Assaly. “There’s no way to just shut down these systems. For example, there are three primary clarifiers, and we can turn off one at a time.”

Working hand-in-hand with the operators and engineers on the project, Assaly and his team have kept open lines of communication; therefore have not experienced any major setbacks in progress. “We have scheduled meetings and strict contingency plans,” he continues. “There are parts we need to take down to upgrade, but we really have to keep it to a minimum.”

The end product of the Hawkesbury project will increase capacity and allow the town to offer better, cleaner water to its residents. Upgrades include the conversion of equalization tanks to aeration tanks; two new equalization tanks; conversion of existing aerobic digesters to primary clarifiers; new systems for screening; grit removal and flow metering; improved pumping; new UV disinfection and a new bio-solids and dewatering facility.

Making Connections

Asco is a family business, and Assaly is the second-generation owner. As such, relationships play a vital role in the company’s growth, both internally and externally. “We gauge our success on a few things,” notes Assaly. “Of course, you have the schedule and the budget, but obviously I want a customer that’s happy at the end of the job. The engineer is a customer, but so is the town. I want to earn a good letter of recommendation from them and be prequalified for the next job. We want to build relationships that help us get future work.”

To get there, Asco also builds supportive, successful teams. “We don’t self-perform a whole lot,” explains Assaly. “We do odds and ends, rough carpentry, sealants, stoppings and a lot of miscellaneous components. We’ll do site cleanup, a little demo work, chipping, grinding and the lights.”

To accomplish the rest, Asco works with reliable, stable subcontractors. “The subcontractors we have on this project are people we’ve worked with for a while now,” Assaly says. “We know them, we know their reputations and we know their capacities. They’re all from the Toronto area. We’re about five hours from their hometown, but they’re familiar with this work.”

As the collective project team works through the various phases, pieces are beginning to come together. “With this project there are segments that need to be completed before we can start on something else,” Assaly says. “We hit our first major milestone in November 2012 with the completion of the Edwards Building. That had to be up and running before we could start on the existing structures.”

With the project beyond the half-way point, Assaly reports that he looks forward to some fairly smooth sailing. “What we worry about most is falling behind schedule, or finding extra costs,” he says. “Normally there’s something small and unforeseen, but to me it’s not a big deal unless you make it bigger.”

With a level head and a common sense approach, Assaly is leading his team toward completion, on time and on budget. “We haven’t had any major issues on this site,” Assaly continues, looking forward to the Hawkesbury Wastewater Treatment Plant’s commissioning in late 2013.