Canadian Consulting Engineer

INFRASTRUCTURE: Governments wake up after North Battleford

June 1, 2001
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The Saskatchewan Government has called a judicial inquiry following the breakdown of the public water supply system in North Battleford in April. Justice Robert D. Laing is looking into what allowed t...

The Saskatchewan Government has called a judicial inquiry following the breakdown of the public water supply system in North Battleford in April. Justice Robert D. Laing is looking into what allowed the parasite cryptosporidium to enter the water system and resulted in hundreds of people falling ill. A boil water advisory was in effect for weeks after the problem occurred.

The city has hired MR2 McDonald & Associates as consulting engineers to do an in-depth study of its three water treatment plants and make recommendations to the engineering department by the end of May.

Initial reports suggest that the water supply had been susceptible to problems for some time, due to inadequate filtering, infestations by mice and poor chlorination. As well, the city’s sewage treatment plant was apparently releasing untreated sewage from time to time into the North Saskatchewan River two kilometres upstream from the city’s intake pipe. There are plans to replace the plant, but not till 2003. A former resident of the city, who now lives in Toronto, told CCE, “We knew for years not to drink the water in North Battleford.”

A report in the Regina Leader Post said that the provincial government had known for nine years that 120 other communities had deficient water supplies, but had been told not to criticize the infrastructure.

Hard on the heels of the North Battleford crisis, the federal and Saskatchewan governments announced an investment of $19.4 million for 74 infrastructure projects, including 33 water treatment plant upgrades and 15 wastewater treatment plant projects. These initiatives come under the Canada-Saskatchewan Infrastructure Program and require municipalities to pay one-third of the cost. Lorne Culvert, the provincial premier, was calling for a “pan-Canadian set of enforceable drinking standards.”

After two recent chronic water supply failures — first in Walkerton, Ontario, hit by the deadly bacteria E-Coli 0157-H7, and now in North Battleford — governments are very sensitive to public concerns and are tightening regulations and investing in water infrastructure. A public inquiry in Ontario is currently looking into the contribution that provincial government policies had on the Walkerton disaster, and in April the British Columbia government tabled legislation to tighten its drinking water regulations and put a new network of health officials in charge.

This water-rich country is a long way from having a pristine water supply and treatment record. In Newfoundland, for example, 257 of 618 communities regularly have to boil their drinking water, as did Manitobans during recent flooding. Meanwhile, the Montreal Urban Community sewage plant in Rivire des Prairies has won the dubious distinction of being named the fifth worst toxic polluter in Canada.

WORK: A slump in engineering activityCanaData statistics suggest that the party might be over for consulting engineers. Engineering construction activity in Canada has taken a steep dive compared to last year. For the first quarter of 2001 engineering construction starts were 77% down in dollar terms, and construction activity as a whole was down 45%. By April the figure was less depressing, standing at 33% down from the same period last year for all construction. Trend figures for the past six years show a very sharp decline in engineering after they reached a high at the beginning of 2000.

Alex Carrick, an economist with CanaData, the statistics arm of CMD Group in Toronto, attributes most of the recent drop in activity to a fall-off in major oil and gas projects, and a slowdown in industrial building in the automotive sector. As well, he says, suburban office building for high tech businesses has slowed following losses on the stock market in that sector.

PRACTICE: Microsoft rolls over

The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE) is “very pleased” that Microsoft Corporation has agreed to stop using the term “engineer” when it grants certificates to its trainees. The software giant had been awarding the title “Microsoft Certified System Engineer,” but has agreed to change the practice, and to write to existing Canadian holders of the certification to tell them not to use the title any more.

The CCPE and several provincial engineering associations met with Microsoft in Seattle late last year to explain that only individuals licensed by the professional engineering associations in Canada are permitted to use the title “engineer.”

Geoscientists form their own professional association

Following Ontario’s passage of the Professional Geoscientists Act, 2000 last June, geoscientists in the province are forming their own self-regulating professional association. Pressure for geoscientists to be more closely governed began after the Bre-X scandal in which thousands of investors lost fortunes in the company after it falsified records of gold mineral deposits.

Whereas in most provinces geoscientists are licensed and regulated by the professional engineering associations, in Ontario they have been excluded from Professional Engineers Ontario. Consequently, the geoscientists have created a new licensing body, based in downtown Toronto, called the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO). The Minister of Northern Development and Mines appointed the first council, which is now crafting the bylaws and signing on members. Anyone who wishes to practise geoscience in Ontario or provide geoscience services will have to be registered with the association.

The change will affect consulting engineering firms in Ontario. Those that employ geoscientists and provide their services to the public may now have to obtain a certificate of authorization from APGO. Geoscientists reporting for securities purposes in mining will also have to register as a Qualified Person (QP) to satisfy the Toronto Stock Exchange and Ontario Securities Commission requirements. APGO’s web site is at

AWARDS; Manitoba and B.C. give out awards

Consulting Engineers of Manitoba announced the winners of its 2001 Awards of Excellence on April 18. The winners were presented at a dinner at the Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg in front of 250 people.

Awards of Excellence went to KGS Group for stabilization of the Pointe du Bois Generating Station Powerhouse; Acres International for Owen Falls Extension in Uganda; TetrES Consultants for the Simplot Groundwater Recovery Study; UMA Engineering for the rehabilitation of the Greater Winnipeg Water District’s Shoal Lake Aqueduct; Wardrop Engineering for the stabilization and repairs to the Wharf at the Port of Churchill.

Awards of Merit went to ND Lea for the Omard’s Creek Crossing; TetrES Consultants for corporate risk management for industrial chemical facilities; Wardrop Engineering for the Wardrop/Faroex glass fibre-reinforced polymer deck; Crosier Kilgour & Partners for the Impact-Echo technology for assessment of stone cladding; UMA Engineering for the application of waste heat for watermain freezing prevention; and Acres Manitoba for the Floodway entrance improvement project.

Consulting Engineers of British Columbia (CEBC) announced the winners of its Awards for Engineering Excellence at a gala attended by 300 people in March.

The Lieutenant-Governors’ Award went to EBA Engineering and Sandwell Engineering for their Seismic Vulnerability Assessment of the First Narrows and Port Mann Water Supply Crossings for the Greater Vancouver Water District. The same project also won an Award of Excellence in the soft engineering category. Both pipelines are potentially vulnerable to damage during a major earthquake because the soil can liquefy around the buried pipe and cause severe stresses on the pipe. Awards of Excellence went to Stantec Consulting for Burnaby Mountain Secondary School; Sandwell Engineering for the Island Cogeneration project; and Buckland & Taylor for the Port Mann Bridge five-lane widening.

Awards of Merit went to Keen Engineering for the Liu Centre for the Study of Global Issues; Read Jones Christoffersen for the BC Gas Operations Cent
re; SNC-Lavalin/Klohn Crippen for the Balambano Hydro Electric project; Kerr Wood Leidal for the Daylighting Thain Creek project; McElhanney Consulting Services for the South Surrey Interchange; Horizon Engineering/Knight Piesold/ Sperling Hansen for the Delta Shake and Shingle Fire Emergency Earthworks (see CCE, May 2001, p. 12); and Urban Systems/ Stantec Consulting for the City of Kamloops Membrane Pilot Stody.

For the first time, CEBC gave a Meritorious Achievement Award for outstanding contributions to the industry by an individual. The award went to Tom Simons, P.Eng., former chair of Simons International and currently a director of Transtech Interactive Training.

MAILBOX: Clients should come first

Re. “Frantic – Are you too busy to be productive?” by Jeff Mowatt (March-April).

Surely this article is meant to be taken as an April fool’s joke. Otherwise I can only conclude that my 35-year career as a professional engineer has been a failure.

As always, I am fascinated at how non-engineers perceive the practice of engineering and believe that they are capable of advising on how best to run and manage engineering firms.

First of all, when somebody advises that “we do not need to work harder but smarter,” they grab my attention. This is a catchy modern phrase which I would suggest has virtually universal appeal. After all, who these days wants to work harder when they could be doing something more enjoyable involving their “smart” qualities rather than their “dumb” qualities? “Work” has become the most dreaded word in the English vocabulary — something to be avoided at all cost as it may become habit-forming. Unfortunately for Mowatt’s premise, all of the great engineering achievements have been gained through the proverbial “blood, sweat and tears.” Hard work is inherent in the engineering profession and no wishful slogan will change that.

Secondly, I refer to the quick quiz about the normal first task of the day. According to Mr. Mowatt it is to perform “work on strategic projects.” Mowatt believes that dealing with clients’ day to day “emergencies” is a trivial matter to be attended by junior staff and that we should not spend time and effort to “put out fires.” It may surprise Mr. Mowatt to know that this putting out of fires, as he calls it, is actually part of the range of services provided by consulting engineers and that clients, whose demands are expanding exponentially, expect immediate attention. Wow, what a revelation!

Call me a jaundiced old-fashioned engineer, but working hard has always been a staple of my practice and service to my clients has always been, and will always be, my first priority.

Jack De Chiara, P.Eng.,

TransTek, Toronto.

Radiant cooling is cool

Two articles [March-April] caught my special interest: “Slab radiant cooling,” by Jim Sawers, P. Eng., of Earth Tech Canada, and “Alberta Unbound” by Nordahl Flakstad. Both were fine articles and congratulations to the writers.

Regarding Sawers’ article, I am happy to see that people are finally realizing the merits of this sensible way of heating and cooling. For 20 years I have been preaching that technology. Only in North America are we so stupid as to heat and cool by air systems since fuel is cheap here compared to the rest of the world.

Concerning “Alberta Unbound,” it is unfortunate that the authorities developing power in Alberta are not more familiar with the wind turbine systems called WARP (wind amplified rotor power) that outperform the Danish technology of the past generation quite easily at a fraction of the cost.

I have enjoyed your fine publication for many years.

Louis Hbert Lafontaine, ing.

Louis Hbert Lafontaine & associs,


In praise of Highway 16

In the December issue (ACEC Review section) ACEC Chair Dave Chalcroft and Dr. N.K. Becker introduced me to the concept of building a “four lane divided highway” a mare usque ad mari. [N.K. Becker is not in favour of the idea, see page 50 in this issue].

Interestingly, nowhere in the article is Manitoba mentioned.

Is my nose out of joint? Perhaps. Or is it because the two gentlemen mentioned above, being “easterners,” do not appreciate the highway situation in Manitoba?

Highway 16 — more commonly referred to as the Yellowhead because it ultimately passes through the Yellowhead Pass west of Edmonton, leaves the Trans-Canada Highway about six miles west of Portage la Prairie. Trending in a generally north-westerly direction, it passes into Saskatchewan, Alberta, and reaches British Columbia east of Lucerne. Highway 5 south of Kamloops joins 16 just north of Tte Jaune Cache. From this junction, the Yellowhead wends its way to reach Saltwater at Prince Rupert.

Thus, give or take some 75 miles, Highway 16 covers half of Canada. This highway has already become the highway of choice for most long-haul truckers because of the easier grades. For the planners, half of Canada will need not one, but two four-lane divided highways.

Vernon L. Dutton, P.Eng. (Ret.)


Why delays on Lion’s Gate?

The article in the January/February 2001 issue on the Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver (p.29) was short on details of why this project is taking so long to complete, with many closures and discomfort for road users. Rumours in the media have it that this is due to an inappropriate design. A follow-up article explaining the truth of the matter should set the matter straight.

Jacob A. de Raadt, P. Eng.,

Langley, B.C.

Peter G. Buckland, P.Eng., author of the article and principal-in-charge of Buckland & Taylor., the owner’s bridge engineer, replies:

The design for the Lion’s Gate Bridge reconstruction is fine. The new, wider bridge will give many years of safe, trouble-free service.

The work is behind schedule mainly because the contractor’s engineering analysis for deck erection took longer than anticipated. The work is complex, must be accomplished in short periods at night, and [the bridge] must open promptly at 6 a.m.. With 60,000 vehicles using the bridge every daytime, public safety is paramount, so erection methods and equipment are analyzed, designed and independently checked, and then reviewed by the owner’s bridge engineer. Work only proceeds when all three parties (design, check and review) are satisfied that public safety is not compromised. Sometimes this has taken longer to finalize than was hoped, but safety is more important than schedule.

Deck replacement is now proceeding well and the half-way point at the centre of the bridge was passed on the night of 17-18 May, 2001.

COMPANIES; UMA renames Spantec

On its 90th birthday, UMA Group has announced a restructuring under its corporate name. The name of its construction company, Spantec Constructors, has been changed to UMA Constructors, and its fabrication company, Noralta, is now UMA Fabricators.

In March UMA Group acquired Manray Consulting of Calgary, a company that specializes in residential land development. Manoj Raythatha, P.Eng., fomerly president of Manray, now heads the land services division of UMA in Calgary.

ND LEA joins Clifton

Clifton Associates have joined with ND Lea Engineers & Planners to make a new jointly owned company, Clifton ND Lea Consulting based in Calgary. Dan Meidl, P.Eng. is president and Roger St. Louis, P.Eng. is vice-president of the new firm.


Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories