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Setting store

Project 70; PFI; Scotland's first PFI water scheme lists a colony of badgers among its successful third party interface initiatives. David Hayward reports from the Scottish Highlands.

Managers of the new Tesco supermarket, in an Inverness retail park on the banks of the Moray Firth, knew little of the large interceptor sewer being laid along the same shoreline. Neither did the colony of badgers secure in their setts dug into a nearby rail embankment.

That both of these 'third parties' - plus developers, MPs and neighbouring store owners - remained on good terms with the sewer construction team is credited largely to the Egan initiative in encouraging client and contractor to be proactive in their management of such third party interfaces.

'What became a win-win outcome for all sides could so easily have been an entrenched court battle leading to a year's construction delay and several million pounds additional cost,' recalls Mike Smith, project director for catchment, the consortium responsible for creating Scotland's first wastewater scheme to be let by North of Scotland Water Authority through the government's Private Finance Initiative.

'Our industry is brimming full of good ideas but suffers from short termism and needed something like Egan initiatives to bring them forward.'

The £45M Highland sewage scheme for construction and operation of new treatment facilities at Inverness and Fort William was no stranger to such good ideas from the start.

An extensive value engineering exercise led to concrete treatment tank walls being precast to halve construction time; swapping iron pipes for plastic to avoid deep trenches and designing out several planned new pump stations (NCE 29 October 1998).

'PFI allows participants to focus on innovative designs and close teamwork,' says Scotland's M4I team member Adrian Blumenthal.

'But this project, with its unusual task of managing sewage treatment for 25 years, encourages additional risk reducing initiatives and whole life costing incentives.'

The project

Catchment director Mike Smith will be celebrating the millennium by spending at least some of the day visiting his new £36M Inverness sewage works. For that is the plant's commissioning day - two months ahead of schedule and the date from which NoSWA starts paying for sewage treatment for the following 25 years.

Exactly a year earlier, New Year's Day 1999, was Fort William's turn to be switched on as the town's £9M sewage scheme became fully operational - on this occasion five months early.

Such advance completion all round is due in part to the opportunities inherent in PFI projects where Catchment could - and did - change much of the proposed design during value engineering and whole life costing exercises.

Scotland's first PFI sewerage scheme involves the £45M upgrade of preliminary or primary treatment works at both Inverness and Fort William.

At Inverness a 8km new interceptor sewer, a 1,200m long sea outfall and 500litre/s full treatment plant replaces three short outfalls which discharged only preliminary treated sewage direct into the adjacent Moray Firth.

Poor ground and a high water table led to Catchment scrapping an original proposal for iron gravity sewers in favour of a plastic rising main laid half as deep.

Some 100km to the south west, similarly poor ground beside Loch Linnhe means all Fort William's treatment tanks are built entirely above ground.

Here, the new 113 litre/second plant and adjacent 670m out- fall, replaces two separate works offering only primary treatment.

The team

Client: North of Scotland Water Authority

Concessionaire: Catchment, consortium of contractors Bechtel and Morrison, plus North West Water owner United Utilities.

Contractor: Bechtel - Morrison JV

Operator: NWW subsidiary Caledonian Water

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