Questions raised about firm Parksville has contracted for new water system

City's CAO and city councillor react to news being spread in the community about the past of CH2M Hill

Some people are trying to further their own agendas by pointing to allegations about the consultant hired by the Englishman River Water Service, says Parksville’s chief administrative officer.

CH2M Hill Canada Ltd. was hired by the ERWS to design a water treatment and storage system. The ERWS settled on an option that will cost the city $27.3 million. Senior government funding is expected, but it has yet to be announced. The treatment and storage system was the hot topic during the November civic elections, with residents and candidates calling for more consultation.

On Monday night, city council passed a motion to hold a town-hall-style meeting about the water treatment plans before April 15.

In the past few weeks, e-mails have been flying around town, some finding their way to The NEWS, pointing to the conduct of CH2M Hill in Portland, Ore.

“I am aware of the allegations that people are throwing around here, there and everywhere to get their agendas advanced,” Fred Manson, the city’s CAO, said Tuesday, adding that the allegations are “attacking the credibility of the consultant.”

Manson said the city checked CH2M Hill’s references before offering the firm a contract. “We are very satisfied with what we learned,” he said.

CH2M Hill has been involved in some controversies in Portland, the Hanford Nuclear reactor Site in Washington and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, among other places. CH2M Hill Canada has worked on high-profile B.C. projects like the Sea to Sky Highway and the Evergreen Rapid Transit Line.

City Coun. Kirk Oates said he has also heard the rumblings about CH2M Hill. “I know there has been some correspondence circulating about their conduct in Portland,” said Oates. “If there’s any kind of evidence that supports that there should be some concerns, I will be interested in seeing that. I don’t want to set ourselves up to get in bed with someone who will put a blemish on the reputation of the city.”

“I think there’s a certain amount of of trust that has to be put in administration to hire reputable firms,” Oates continued. “And my understanding is they (CH2M Hill) are one of the leading engineering firms in the world.”

Al Pastars, the vice president of the Parksville Residents Association, was in the gallery Monday night at city council. During the November elections, the PRA called for more public consultation and information meetings related to the project.

“I’m pleased to see all our politicians are now committed to, let’s put it this way, educating the public,” said Pastars.

The PRA now has an up-to-date, active website, which includes some links to articles written about CH2M Hill. Visit www.parksvilleresidents.ca.