Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) has obtained a copy of the letter that Abdul Khan, the former director of water and wastewater treatment for the City of Hamilton, wrote in which he accused senior staff of misleading Council over the true cost of upgrading the water treatment plant, covering up safety concerns about Lynden drinking water, and diverting funds from the sale of scrap metal to staff entertainment.
CATCH has posted the letter in Word format on their website. Here is the letter in full, converted into HTML for easier access.
Abdul Khan email of December 9 2009 to council and media
Your Worship Mayor Eisenberger and Respected Members of the Council
I have had the privilege of serving the residents of the City of Hamilton as Director of Water and Wastewater Treatment from May 2005 until my termination from service in June 2009 under the pretext of restructuring. However, I am confident that my removal was a consequence of my conscientiousness that compelled me to resist unscrupulous endeavors and raise controversial issues to the City's management that I believed to be detrimental to and against the interests of the residents of Hamilton.
I had preferred to raise the issues discussed below to your attention in person as a delegation to the council, but despite my requests to the clerk over the past three months, I still await a date. Since I have already wasted considerable time in first pursuing alternate courses of accountability and secondly in waiting for a date to present the issues to your attention, I resort to writing this letter to you, copying it to various concerned departments, offices, authorities and the media within the city of Hamilton, who I believe would benefit from perusing this letter.
In the detailed attachment to this letter, I venture to explain and report various issues, which have already previously been reported to both Mr. Gerry Davis, General Manager, Public Works and Mr. Chris Murray, City Manager in February 2009 and June 2009 respectively. I do so in line with the Professional Engineers of Ontario's Code of conduct, which obligates me to report indiscretions and issues of public safety, interest, and well being. I wish to report the following issues and have elaborated them in detail in the attachment:
1. Woodward WWTP Masterplan and Capital Upgrades:
Various alternative options for upgrade of Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), to meet the growth needs and to achieve the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan (RAP) targets, have rejected in favour of Membrane Treatment System by initially spuriously underestimating the capital costs of the upgrades and then willfully withholding the 'burgeoning' associated costs of operating the Membrane Treatment System. The information is being voluntarily withheld from the Council and the public and is not being disclosed. All in an attempt to obtain council and public approval, however misinformed, in favor of the Membrane Treatment System. Senior management has ignored professional advice, stifled and taken punitive actions against dissent and discussion, and is adamant to not explore viable and cost effective options.
2. Misrepresentation to the Council and the Public:
a. Rate Budget 2009: Crucial data was withheld to direct the Council to form a misinformed decision. The real financial costs of the treatment system were deliberately not disclosed.
b. Rate Budget 2010: the operating and maintenance costs of the membrane treatment system have still not been disclosed to the public, or reflected in the budget.
c. Woodward WWTP Capacity: Numerous times, the Senior Management had adopted scaremongering tactics, providing the council with incorrect data, convincing it that the Woodward WWTP was faced with capacity challenges and in dire need of expansion. These assertions were completely false and time and again, intentionally stated incorrectly to the Council and Public.
d. Canada Ontario Infrastructure Program: Various covenants of the 'Funding Agreement' were deliberately violated, bypassed and ignored.
3. Public Health Risks:
a. Lynden Lead Issues: Residents of community were knowingly exposed to lead in water for an extended period of time. Professional advises were ignored to ward off the perception of taking corrective directions from the Medical Officer of Health.
b. Water Treatment Plant (WTP) Upgrades: To qualify for funding under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund (ISF), treatment process components essential for health protection were omitted from the project scope in order to bring forth the completion date. The omitted treatment process component removes potential carcinogens in drinking water to the residents of Hamilton. Professional advice against it was ignored.
4. Financial Irregularities:
a. Under the direction of Senior Management, scrap worth of $10,000 was disposed for cash, unaccounted for, and used for entertainment.
b. Hamilton Renewable Power Inc (HRPI): The purchase price of biogas and the sale price of heat were not appropriately set at arm length. The vice president of HRPI was also the Senior Director of Water and Wastewater. HRPI was paid at the detriment to Plant Operations and wastewater rates were being used to subsidize HRPI to make it financially viable than it really would be if there were arms length settlement of rates.
c. Health and Safety Week: Senior Management directed and indulged in extravagant and unnecessary activities, especially in time of economic hardships faced by the city's residents.
5. Water and Wastewater Treatment Capital Programs:
a. Water Projects in the Capital Programs: The urgency of the construction of an additional reservoir/clear well at the WTP, recommended from Risk Assessment exercise has been ignored and not reflected in the rate budget 2010.
b. New Water and Wastewater Building and Yards: Priorities were misplaced, giving preference to grandeur over urgencies related to the health of the taxpayer. Commissioned by the Rennie End Use Plan, the new water and wastewater building and yards were proposed to be constructed at the site of the clear well (5a above), making the construction of the latter very difficult if not impossible.
c. Waterdown WWTP Pumping Station: Serious financial and purchasing irregularities and violations were allowed to occur, fragmenting the project into sub assignments, and awarding them all to the same consultant.
Your Worship Mayor Eisenberger and Respected Members of the Council, kindly find the detailed elaborations of the above stated points in the attachment. I have been effectively removed from all domains of the city's functioning, and hence am not impacted by either the actions of the management of the City's public works department, and by not being the resident of Hamilton, nor will I be impacted by the actions taken to investigate the issues I raise today.
I served the city resident most sincerely during the four years of my tenure and placed its interest before mine - everyday. In the end, I paid for it with my employment, jeopardizing the future of my young family. I have no regrets for my stances that led to my termination. It was my duty to do so. No office has the right to dishonor the people who place trust in them.
I most sincerely hope that your respectable offices, serving as the custodians of the rights and well being of the residents of Hamilton will honour them by extending them the loyalty this city so deserves.
I thank you for your time and please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any clarifications or additional information.
Abdul Khan, MSc Eng, MBA, P.Eng.
Former Director of Water and Wastewater Treatment
City of Hamilton
108 Sunset Drive
Medicine Hat, AB
Tel: (403) 487 0094
Cell: (403) 502 4050
1) City Manager and General Managers, City of Hamilton
2) City's Solicitor, City of Hamilton
3) Medical Officer of Health, City of Hamilton
4) Registrar Professional Engineers of Ontario
5) Hamilton Spectator
6) CH News
7) Citizen at the City Hall
8) Hamilton Halton Home Builder Association
9) CHML News
10) Media Outlets in Hamilton
Attachment - WATER AND WASTEWATER DIVISION - PUBLIC RIGHT TO KNOW
I had the privilege of serving the residents of the City of Hamilton as Director of Water and Wastewater Treatment from May 2005 until my termination from service in June 2009. During my stay with the City, I tried my best to meet the expectations of both the residents and the council. While I was successful on many fronts in particular with regards to the treatment operations, delivering better treatment performance than the preceding 25 years while simultaneously reducing the operational costs for four consecutive years, I believe that I at a level failed to protect public interest on few issues related to the future capital upgrades, which will amount to significant misappropriation of tax payers money. I did however try my best to prevent the failures and in the end paid for them with my employment. Today, through this letter, I wish to bring to fore the very issues and concerns that to me are a matter of great public interest and which should be brought to the attention of each and every stakeholder in the city of Hamilton..
While restructuring was stated as the reason for my termination, I believe that was just an excuse and I was terminated for my non-compromising positions of certain issues of public interest emanating from my ethical values required by and in line with Professional Engineers of Ontario Code of Conduct. After my termination from the City, in June 2009, I met with the City Manager Mr. Chris Murray and thoroughly explained to him all the issues and concerns but to date and after a lapse of almost Six (6) months, no action has been taken and the public interest has yet not been served.
The city was recently presented with the 2010 rate budget, which I reviewed from a distance. I was deeply troubled that after six (6) months since intimating Mr.Murray of my concerns, the city's residents and council l are still not provided complete information about the capital programs and are being tricked and maneuvered into making decisions that will result in serious long terms economic hardships for the community.
As a licensed Professional Engineer, I have a duty to report and provide complete information to the public and as such I wish to report the various issues as follows:
WOODWARD WWTP MASTER PLAN AND CAPITAL UPGRADES
The City is planning to upgrade the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) to meet the growth needs and to achieve the effluent targets set under the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan (RAP). For this, the Environmental Assessments were completed per the Ministry of Environment (MOE) guidelines.
As part of the Phases 1 and 2 of the Class EA assessments, completed concurrently under the Master Plan in 2006, the cost for the upgrades at the Woodward WWTP was estimated at about $330 million. It was anticipated that the treatment technology would be based on Membrane Treatment System referred to as Membrane Bio Reactors (MBR). Various options were considered as part of the assessments and one of the options was to provide a direct outfall to Lake Ontario. Though this was a logical and reasonable option, it was not preferred because the RAP team position propounded the treatment level for this option be the same as that for the outfall to the harbor. I had reservations about the RAP position as it was too idealistic and was not taking into consideration the assimilative capacity in the lake.
I repeatedly discussed my reservations with Senior Director, Mr. Jim Harnum and his response was that it was the council's direction to meet RAP targets and to work with them. I believed that the Council was not aware of the implications of the various positions of the RAP and had that been explained the direction would have been different. On Mr. Harnum's assurance that the approach and the costs will be revisited in the Phases 3 and 4 of the Class EA process, I agreed to allow the process to proceed to the next steps. The details of RAP position and the non-selection of this lake discharge option are provided and documented in the Phases 1 and 2 Class EA document.
As part of the Phases 3 and 4 assessments, the costs for the MBR process were further refined and were increased from $330 million in Phases 1 and 2 to over $450 million. I was not confident about the costs as I believed that they were ambiguous and non-transparent and many major supporting items for the MBR process such as increased electrical power were not included and also the long term operations and maintenance costs were not properly calculated. I asked the project team led by Mr. Dan Chauvin, the then manager of the Plant Capital, and the consultants to prepare those costs and include them in the EA report. However, Mr. Harnum citing timing constraints overruled my decision and proceeded with recommending to the Council to file the EA report for public review. I was assured by Mr. Harnum and the project team that the costs would be further updated as part of the Conceptual Design and if they would increase beyond $500 million, the original options in Phases 1 and 2 of the EA would be revisited.
As part of the Conceptual Designs, completed during late 2007 and 2008, it became apparent that the previous cost estimates by the project team were very low and the Woodward WWTP upgrade project would cost about $780 million, which was more than double the original cost estimate of $330 million. The gross underestimation of the costs by the project team in the earlier phases of the project was very disappointing and put to question the quality of their earlier work.
In 2008, the City of London constructed and commissioned a new MBR plant and extrapolating actual cost data from that would suggest that the Woodward WWTP would cost about $1.2 billion and this will also be consistent with the industry published research primarily by Water Environment Federation (WEF) and International Water Quality Association (IWQA).
Despite my request, the Draft Conceptual Design report didn't provide details of the long term Operation and Maintenance (O&M) costs. In a project team meeting, the consultants provided an estimate of about $30 million incremental cost per year to operate and maintain the MBR system, which I believed was on a lower side.
The membrane fibers in MBR system have a life span of less than 10 years and would need complete replacement every 8 to 10 years. Extrapolating the MBR equipment costs in the City of London, the membrane cartridges at the Woodward WWTP would cost about $120 million and as such $12 million per year would have to be set aside to be able to replace the membranes every 10 years. MBR system utilizes extensive mechanical equipment and as such has very high electrical power requirements. Based on the existing O&M costs for pumps, equipment, electrical and control systems at the Woodward WWTP, the similar O&M costs for the proposed MBR system at Woodward will be roughly around $10 million per year. Based on the actual power consumption in the City of London, the electrical power costs for the proposed MBR system will be about $12 million per year. As such it is believed that the MBR system at Woodward WWTP will require an additional operational budget of about $40 to $45 million per year. This number is consistent with the industry published research.
After extensive public consultation, in summer of 2008, MOE published wastewater guidelines and provided clarity in terms of treated wastewater discharges to the lakes. The treatment requirements were based on the assimilative capacity of the lakes and as such didn't require the treatment level proposed by the RAP team for the lake based discharge. Around the same time in summer of 2008, the Regional Municipality of Halton proposed to the RAP team that they would divert the outfall of the Skyway WWTP to the lake and they will provide treatment to the level proposed by the MOE in the guidelines. The RAP team agreed to the Halton Region proposal. I believed that these developments materially altered the triple bottom line (environmental, social and economic) evaluation of options in Phases 1 and 2, as follows:
1. The cost of the MBR process (selected option in Phase 1 and 2) had increased by more than double from $330 million to over $780 million and as such the economic evaluation is not valid and it is prudent to revisit the process to reconfirm whether this option is still valid.
2. The lake based discharge option in the Phases 1 and 2 wouldn't require the higher level of treatment as originally anticipated and both the MOE and RAP team had agreed to a different level of treatment in the Wastewater Guidelines and the Agreement with Halton Region respectively. This materially alters the environmental evaluation in the Phases 1 and 2 of the EA.
In summer 2008, I wanted to revisit other options in the Phases 1 and 2 Class EA. Mr. Harnum was not happy about this and after extensive debate and discussions he agreed to have the consultants review the costs for lake based discharge option. The consultants provided a draft report in fall 2008, in which the issues were not properly addressed. I provided my comments in a memo to the project team, which significantly angered Mr. Harnum and I was directed to rescind the memo, to which I agreed under the condition that the consultants would revise the report and address all my concerns.
In late January 2009, the consultants resubmitted the report related the reevaluation of the lake based discharge option. I was deeply disappointed by the analysis and provided detailed comments in an e-mail to the project team requesting revisions. I wanted the consultants to address the concerns and finalize the report for an independent peer review by other consultants not involved in the project. I firmly believed that the lake based discharge option will cost under $300 million and will meet the City's growth needs, achieve RAP objectives and MOE guidelines. I clearly articulated this professional opinion in the detailed e-mail sent to Mr. Chauvin and copied to Mr. Harnum on February 5, 2009 at 8:15 PM. The consultants' report was provided to the project team by Mr. Chauvin via an e-mail on January 15, 2009 10:39 AM. As the City's IT department archives all the mails, these documents can be retrieved and obtained.
Mr. Harnum responded very angrily to my position via e-mails on February 9, 2009 at 9:41 AM and verbally in meetings. He directed that no further work be done on this issue and MBR systems are the final approach for Woodward WWTP. I arranged separate meetings and discussions with him and upon failing to reach a resolution, I suggested for a review by the then Acting General Manager Mr. Gerry Davis. It may be noted that upon my suggestion, I was informed that such a move on my part may constitute a matter for disciplinary action.
During the meeting, I advised Mr. Harnum that the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association (HHHBA) might challenge the Development Charges (DC) bylaw to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and we might be asked to testify there and it was therefore critical to reasonable satisfy ourselves to be able to defend the City's position. Mr. Harnum suggested that I have to defend the City's position at the OMB regardless of what I think or believe and failure to do so would be grounds for termination. I was extremely disappointed by this and advised him that he was suggesting me to commit perjury.
I requested Mr. Davis for a 2 hour meeting to be able to explain the project and the complex issues. Instead, Mr. Davis gave me a half hour meeting time in which I tried to explain the issues. I did advise Mr. Davis of my discussion with Mr. Harnum and his expectation of me to commit perjury. I followed with an e-mail to Mr. Davis providing him the copy of the report of the consultants and my e-mail comments on the report. Mr. Davis responded a few weeks later with an e-mail advising that he didn't agree with my view and believed that the outcome of the EA process be followed. I regret that Mr. Davis wouldn't appreciate the material changes that had happened since the completion of Phases 1 and 2 of the Class EA, coupled with the potentially $500 million dollar extra capital cost to be borne by the community. At the time, I was hoping that my technical advice would be given some consideration, especially, since I was the only professional engineer on the team.
About a week later, I received an e-mail from Mr. Harnum which was sent to all the staff in the water and wastewater division advising them of removing the Capital Program portfolio from my responsibilities and mandate. The Woodward WWTP upgrade fell under this portfolio. The section manager Mr. Dan Chauvin, who erstwhile reported to me, was made Acting Director reporting directly to Mr. Harnum. I was very disappointed by this as there were no consultation with me what so ever prior to changing my job description.
For all practical purposes this amounted to 'Constructive Dismissal' under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, however I choose to stay in the position and decided not to push the City into legal battles as the ultimate costs would have to be borne by the tax payers.
I regret that City's senior leadership responded to the technical issues and professional opinions of the only licensed engineer on the team in this manner and chose to look away from the larger public interest. Throughout this time, rather than imposing my opinion, I was merely asking for an independent peer review of the consultant's report related to the lake based discharge option and my professional opinion in my e-mail correspondence . The City's management instead preferred to spend resources on ways and means to defend the wrongs that were made in the earlier stages. I am not sure what they would achieve by pursuing those expensive approaches, which only benefit the consultants, equipment suppliers and contractors. I hoped that the senior management would focus on achieving best value for the residents of the City rather than others.
I request you to undertake an independent peer review under your direct control by expert engineers, preferably not involved in local Canadian market to ensure their independence. Such a peer review would take two to three weeks and would cost about than $20-30 K.
There is no doubt that the MBR system will result in the best overall environmental results but there is also no doubt that it will have devastating social and financial impacts. To deal with the financials, Mr. Harnum had been suggesting corporatization of the Water and Wastewater under Hamilton Utilities Commission (HUC), so that it can borrow money independent of the City. Under this model, it may be possible to raise money for the capital upgrades, however,in eventually water and wastewater rates have to be raised to repay the debt, interest payments, and higher long term O&M costs.
It doesn't matter what administrative model is utilized, the money would have to come from the same pocket. I urge you to reconsider the staff proposed approaches. The community will end up in very high debts and higher long term wastewater rates, which will make the cost of living and doing business very high resulting in more job losses and sustained economic decline.
MISREPRESENTATION TO COUNCIL AND PUBLIC
Since late 2008, significant misrepresentations were made to the Council and the public which were quite troubling and uncomfortable. As mentioned earlier, I did report all of these to the City Manager in June 2009 but unfortunately no action has been taken and as such I would like to take this opportunity to report these to you and the public.
Rate Budget 2009
In fall 2008, as the rate budget for 2009 was being prepared, I asked the project staff to provide the anticipated annual O&M costs, after the completion of MBR at Woodward WWTP, for inclusion in the 10 years projected rate analysis. Mr. Harnum was not willing to include the O&M costs in the 10 year projected rates analysis and when we couldn't resolve the differences, I suggested a discussion with the then General Manager Mr. Scott Stewart. Mr. Harnum agreed to include $30 million per year for the O&M costs after 2015 when the MBR system would be constructed. The projected rates curve suggested that the future rates would be unsustainable and unaffordable; potentially making the wastewater services in Hamilton the most expensive in Canada.
During the rate budget presentation in December 2008, I was shocked to note that the 10 year projected rate analysis chart in the presentation didn't include the long term O&M costs. I checked in the rate book and the council report and they were omitted from there also. After the presentation, I asked Mr. Harnum about the change and he advised me that information might have intellectually challenged the Council and public..
I was very disappointed and felt extremely uncomfortable as very important material information was willfully concealed and not provided to the public. It seemed to me that both the Council and the public were not trusted and they were provided doctored information to direct them towards certain decision. I wanted to bring this to the attention of Mr. Scott Stewart but before I could get the opportunity, he unfortunately resigned from the position.
Rate Budget 2010
I reviewed the 2010 Rate Budget Book and the staff report to the Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting last week, as posted on the City's website. The rate book mentions the MBR project for Woodward WWTP and the capital budget for that is allocated in the various years. However, it seems that the O&M costs for the MBR are not included in the 10 year rate forecast. It is unfortunate that the staff continues to choose to not disclose complete information to the public.
Woodward Capacity Issues
In various reports and presentation to the Council and/or the Committees, Mr. Harnum would suggest that the Woodward WWTP is over 90% of its rated capacity and as such MOE could impose development freeze. He also suggested that the plant capacity will be exceeded by 2011. This is not correct and on various occasions, I clarified it to him that the plant is not over 90% its rated capacity.
Prior to 2006, the influent flow meter at the Woodward WWTP had maintenance issues due to which it was recording higher flows. After extensive tests and flow calibrations, the issues were resolved in 2006 and the flow readings were corrected and as such there were no issues of plant approaching the capacity. As of 2009, based on the previous three years average, the Woodward WWTP had about 50 MLD capacity left to accommodate future growth. This was also confirmed by the MOE in its annual inspection report of 2008 issued in early 2009. The flow data at the plant was reported in the Annual WWTP Report produced by the division under Mr. Harnum's auspices.
Over the past few years, the City has been adding equivalent of about 1000 residential units per year and that on average adds about 1 MLD wastewater flow. At the current growth pace in the City, it will take over 50 years before the plant rated capacity is exceeded. If the 'Places to Grow' and the GRIDS growth numbers are accepted as basis for growth within the City, it will take over 15 years before the plant capacity is exceeded.
I explained the above flow and growth issues very clearly to Mr. Harnum on various occasions. However, he continued to create false scare and alarm and stated in his 2009 budget presentations and report that the plant is approaching capacity. I explained the flow and capacity issues to Mr. Davis and Mr. Murray earlier this year and to my disappointment, I still see similar capacity constraint inferences in the 2010 Rate Book, posted on City's website.
Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program (COIP)
Under the COIP funding, the primary clarifiers at the Woodward WWTP are being upgraded. Under the COIP agreement, which is signed by the Mayor on behalf of the City, it is stipulated that the City will invoice for the 'actual' cost of the components purchased and installed on the project.
Under the project, the sludge collection equipment (chains and flights) in the clarifiers were to be upgraded and new equipment was ordered from the suppliers despite the fact that the City had similar spare equipment purchased few years back stored at the Woodward WWTP. The supplier delivered wrong sized equipment, which the City paid for and the supplier invoices were sent for reimbursement to the Province. To deal with this wrong sized equipment, Mr. Harnum directed that the equipment in the stores may be installed in the clarifiers. I advised him that this was against the terms of COIP agreement and in order to do that we would have to withdraw the invoice from the province and resubmit the invoice under which the equipment in stores was procured.
Mr. Harnum nevertheless directed that there was no need for that and the old equipment be issued to the contractor for installation. This decision was in clear violation of the agreement and I urge you to resolve the issue and correct the course.
PUBLIC HEALTH RISKS AND ISSUES
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires very high level of diligence and care from municipalities and its employees responsible for providing water services. This due diligence is in part based on respect for professional advice and provision of independence to staff involved in the water supply to respond to issues in a diligent and professional manner. Unfortunately, during winter and spring 2009, my professional freedom was curtailed and advice was ignored, as discussed below:
Lead in Lynden Water System
Early in 2009, higher lead levels were detected in the treated water samplesfrom the Lynden Water System. In the past whenever there would be water quality issues, I would take lead and would work towards their resolution in consultation with other sections within the water and wastewater division, while coordinating with the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of the Environment (MOE).
When these higher lead levels were reported, Mr. Eric Mathews from the MOH called me for an action plan to deal with the issues. I called in a meeting involving: Mr. Ian Routledge, P.Eng, Plant Manager; Mr. Bert Posedoski, P.Eng. Manager Distribution and Collection; Mr. Tony Robles, Licensed Level IV Operator, Superintendent /Overall Responsible Operator (ORO) for the water treatment operations; Mr. Roger Drake, Licensed Level IV Operator, Superintendent / ORO for the water distribution operations; and, Mr. Water Furry, Licensed Level IV Operator, supervisor of Lynden water treatment operations. We discussed the issues in detail and concluded that the source of the lead was the sediment in the aeration and disinfection tanks at the treatment plant and to deal with the issues, immediate cleanup of the tanks was required. I advised the team to make immediate plans and arrangement for the cleanup and start contacting the various contractors etc. It was anticipated that the cleanup of the tanks would begin within a few days and will be completed in about two weeks.
While in the meeting, I had a call from Mr. Mathews at the MOH seeking update on our response to the issues and I advised him of the plans for immediate cleanup of the tanks. At the end of the meeting, I called Mr. Harnum to advise him of our response and plan. He didn't agree with the response and believed that the actions would be perceived as Water and Wastewater Division cleaning the tanks under directions from the MOH and he didn't like that. He directed me not to proceed with the plan and to not contact MOH and he will deal with the issues. I advised him that the prime consideration should be public health and not other issues and that he should reconsider overruling recommendations of licensed engineers and operators. He nevertheless directed me not to proceed with the plan and informed that he will deal with MOH.
Mr. Harnum advised the MOH of an approach of further monitoring for few months. Unfortunately during this period, the sediment in the tanks at the treatment plant continued to be flushed into the distribution piping and to water users in the community. A few weeks later, I discussed the need for cleanup again with Mr. Harnum and he directed me not to interfere and that he is leading the issues and their resolution. It was after a lapse of few months and under pressure from the MOH and MOE that Mr. Harnum allowed operations to proceed with the cleanup of the tanks. Unfortunately, by that time, the sediment had moved into the distribution piping and the problem continues to plague the community to this date.
I believe that the decision of Mr. Harnum to overrule professional advice was not in the spirit of the SDWA and its regulations. City has an obligation to report any violations of the SDWA or its regulations to MOE. It is suggested that you direct the City's Solicitor to review this to ensure that no violation of the SDWA had taken place.
Water Treatment Plant Upgrades
The Woodward Water Treatment Plant (WTP) requires architectural and structural upgrades. The designs were completed by RVA consultants and would have required very stringent schedule control as three of the four plant modules would have to be available during summer months to meet the community water demands. It was anticipated that the project will be completed over a four year period.
After the completion of the designs, the City retained another consultant to undertake a comprehensive review of the constructability and project scheduling to assess whether the project can be completed in a shorter duration. The peer review made many recommendations and suggested that the project would require more than four years to complete.
Early in 2009, this project was recommended for funding under Infrastructure Stimulus Fund (ISF) established under the Canada's Economic Action Plan. The key requirement for the funding was a commitment by the City's Council to complete the project before March 31, 2011. The Water and Wastewater division was asked to confirm that this project could be completed in two years. Mr. Harnum and Mr. Chauvin met with operations staff reporting to me and advised them that in order to reduce the project schedule, they will omit the replacement of the Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) on the filters. Though I was in office, they choose not to include me in the decision making. When I found about this, I was extremely concerned by the decision as the GAC removes Trihalomethanes (THMs) in the raw water that are formed because of the pre-chlorination of the water, to achieve disinfection credits. THMs are a serious health concern and many are known to be carcinogenic. I repeatedly suggested to Mr. Harnum and Mr. Chauvin to test the settled water for THMs concentration prior to making this decision of not providing the GAC on filters to ensure that there would be no increase in THMs concentration after the upgrades and that the public health would not be impacted. This suggestion was termed confrontational and ignored.
As a licensed professional engineer, I wish to request and advise you, to ensure that the public health is protected, please obtain independent verification under the direction of Medical Officer of Health that the non-provision of GAC will not increase the THMs levels in the treated water.
There were manyfinancial irregularities and misuse of authority that I believe should be corrected. I reported these to City Manager Mr. Murray also and report to you as follows:
Disposal of $10,000 worth of Scrap at the Woodward WWTP
Scrap as a result of replacement of various components and equipment at the plants were stored at the plant. In 2008, while the Plant Manager Mr. Ian Routledge, was on vacations in Europe, the scrap was sold by two new staff members for about $10,000 Cash. No quotes were obtained and the money was not deposited in the City's accounts.
The Plant Manager Mr. Routledge found out about the cash sale of the scrap in Spring 2009. He immediately notified me and I advised him to request a meeting with Mr. Harnum to report this issue. Mr. Harnum cancelled the formal meeting requests to discuss and resolve the issue. I approached Mr. Harnum in office to seek a resolution and he said that the scrap was sold under the direction of the Acting Plant Manager Mr. Bruce Hill, who is no more employed by the City and as such there is nothing that can be done. I suggested to him to resolve the issue by formally reporting it and writing off the scrap as loss. However, he was not willing to do that and advised me to forget about it.
I was not happy with the cash sale and wanted to investigate more and to have a word with staff so that such issues would not arise in future. In discussions with staff, I was informed that Mr. Harnum had visited the plants and advised the Acting Plant Manager Mr. Bruce Hill and the maintenance supervisors to sell the scrap at the plant stores for Cash. The staff followed the directions and sold the scrap material for about $10,000 in Cash, without obtaining any quotes or official paperwork. The money was used for entertainment and some of the money was passed onto Mr. Harnum. I was also passed on an e-mail that was sent by Mr. Hill to Mr. Harnum on Thursday May 6, 2008 advising him of participation in an entertainment from the cash proceeds of the sale of scrap.
I believe that this is a serious issue of misuse of public property and needs further investigations. I request that you direct the City's auditors to investigate it in detail and report to you the complete facts.
Hamilton Renewable Power Inc (HRPI)
Under the HRPI, an electric power generator was installed at the Woodward WWTP to operate on the biogas produced at the plant. Under the arrangement, HRPI would buy the biogas from the WWTP and produce electric power to sell to the Grid and the heat to the WWTP. The sale price of the electrical power was fixed by the province under standing offer agreement. However, the purchase price of biogas and the sale price of heat was not appropriately set at arm length, as Mr. Harnum who was the Vice President of the HRPI and the Senior Director of Water and Wastewater was on both side of the spectrum.
At the end of 2007, I realized that the WWTP is paying too much to HRPI for the heat and charging too little for the biogas. Prior to the HRPI generator on site, the WWTP would use to biogas for heating purposes and would offset the natural gas consumption. The HRPI became a burden on the WWTP. It would have been more cost effective for the WWTP to use natural gas for heating and not buy heat from HRPI.
I raised this issue with the Water and Wastewater Business Administrator Mr. David Oak and Mr. Harnum. After detailed discussions, Mr. Harnum assured to correct the rates in 2008. During 2008, I repeatedly raised the issue and he gave assurances of dealing with them at the end of the year. At the end of 2008, he assured to reconcile everything in 2009 and adjust past payments also.
In 2009, he refused to deal with the issues and directed to continue to pay HRPI at the detriment to Plant Operations. I believe that wastewater rates were being used to subsidize HRPI to make it financially viable than it really would be if there were arms length settlement of rates.
I request that you direct the City's Auditors to undertake an independent and thorough review of the transactions between the City and HRPI.
Health and Safety Week Activities
For the Health and Safety Week (May 4-8, 2009) activities, Mr. Harnum directed me to advise Plant Manager Mr. Ian Routledge to arrange masseurs at the plant to provide free massages to the City's staff. I was not in favour of that and believed this to be inappropriate use of public money and advised him of my concerns. I advised him against that and suggested that to be extreme disrespect for the community where a lot of people are losing jobs due to the tough economic times.
Mr. Harnum insisted that I follow his directions and accused me of lacking consideration for staff. He suggested that he would himself direct Mr. Routledge to make arrangements and I advised him that I will not approve of any expenses on such an undertaking. Mr. Harnum was extremely agitated by this and threatened me of consequences.
During the H&S week, some other section within the Water and Wastewater Division made arrangements for masseurs who provided free messages to staff. I believe that this was highly inappropriate and gross misuse of authority and public money.
WATER AND WASTEWATER TREATMENT CAPITAL PROGRAM
I believe that the City's water and wastewater treatment capital program and the team responsible for its delivery need a thorough organizational and structural review. This section reported to me during my employment with the City and I tried to correct its working as much as possible but I must accept my failure to fully correct its functionality and output. While there were a multitude of reasons, the two most challenging were the significant interference of Mr. Harnum and the refusal of Mr. Chauvin to follow directions and accountability, from which he was shielded by Mr. Harnum.
I urge you to undertake an independent audit of the City's Capital Program for the past five-six years. During my four years supervising the section, I didn't come across a single project with a value of over $500K that was completed on budget and schedule. Almost every single project undertaken by the section had significant cost and schedule overruns and quality issues. I believe that a thorough review of this section is critical for the City as you entrust this section with the largest capital upgrade program in the history of the City of Hamilton.
Taking the opportunity, I would like to highlight for you of the few projects of significant concern as follows:
Water Projects in the Capital Program
As part of the Drinking Water System Accreditation requirements, the City undertook a comprehensive Risk Assessment of the City's water systems using outside consultants and staff resources. The highest risk for the sustainability of the City's water services would be any issues with the Clear Wells at the Woodward WTP. These are two huge water reservoirs at the WTP where treated water is stored prior to being provided to the City. Any contamination or maintenance issues of these reservoirs will result in significant disruptions in water supply to the community and potentially involving water advisory to the entire City. The two water reservoirs can't be isolated as the interconnecting gate had fallen into disrepair and as such the reservoirs act as one tank. The drains on the reservoirs are very small and it will take over a week to drain them empty and during that draining period, the water supply to the community could be potentially impacted.
The Risk Assessment exercise suggested that an additional reservoir / clear well may be constructed to mitigate the risks. The original WTP design anticipated construction of this additional clear well in future and allowed space on site to incorporate this additional reservoir. Given the risks associated with this, I believe that it should have been the highest priority in the capital program. However, unfortunately I don't find this project included in the capital project list in the 2010 Rate Budget Report. I urge you to look into this and deal with this risk as soon as possible.
New Water and Wastewater Building and Yards
In the previous capital programs, a new water and wastewater building and yards, to be constructed near the Woodward WWTP as part of Rennie End Use plan, were approved by the Council. Consultants were retained to assist the City in design and construction. As part of the project deliberations, Mr. Harnum and Mr. Chauvin decided to relocate the project close to the Water Treatment Plant, adjacent to the site identified for the future clear well. Given that the new clear well was critically required to mitigate the risks(identified above) I was extremely concerned by this as that would make construction of the additional clear well very difficult if not impossible.
I approached Mr. Harnum and Mr. Chauvin and explained my concerns in detail to them and asked them to reconsider their direction to the consultants. They ignored the advice and after that day I was isolated from the project and not invited to the project team meetings.
I urge you to look into that and have an independent consultant review the site layout of the proposed Water and Wastewater building and yard and constructability of the clear well in future.
Waterdown WWTP - Pumping Station
There are serious financial and purchasing irregularities in this project. In clear violation of the purchasing policies, the engineering assignment for the project was broken down into many sub assignments and all were awarded under different Purchase Orders to the same consultant. Using extended work policies, the values of the Purchase Orders were increased for tasks that were covered in the previously approved work plans.
South Secondary Clarifier Upgrade Project
This project is funded under the COIP agreement and involved South Secondary Clarifiers effluent launders upgrade at the Woodward WWTP. There were serious design problems followed by construction issues. As a result the new launders failed to perform at the design flow rates and the entire project failed to meet its initial objectives. As part of the Master Plan upgrades for Woodward WWTP, the effluent launders provided under this project will be demolished and reconstructed completely and the costs are included in the Conceptual Design Report.
This project has been an unfortunate waste of resources, time and money and a clear demonstration of the institutional issues within the section coupled with lack of technical ability and skills.
Under the COIP funding agreement, there are restrictions on removal / decommissioning of infrastructure components that were funded. It is suggested to thoroughly review COIP agreement in the context of this project to ensure that the City is in compliance with the terms of this agreement.
RAS Chlorination Project
This project is also covered under the COIP funding. There were many consulting assignments undertaken on this relatively simple project resulting in a delay of over four years and extensive repeat work. Despite all the time and effort expended on the project, the chlorine piping from the water treatment plant to the wastewater treatment plant is routed through a location where the proposed MBR plant will be constructed and as such will have to be demolished and reconstructed in less than three years. This is another example of sheer waste of time and resources by the section.
It is suggested to also review this project in relation to the decommissioning issues under the COIP agreement.
ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERSHIP AND HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
I believe that the City has significant leadership and HR management issues. While these issues are not related to my duty to report as a professional engineer, I would like to discuss few issues that I faced while trying to resolve the various issues identified above.
I have been with the City since 2005 and was able to manage a working relationship with Mr. Harnum and to work towards improving the sectional work. In our differences, we were able to reach a compromise situation without the need to escalate the issues to the next supervisory level. I believe that was due to the leadership of the former General Manager Scott Stewart, who would welcome and listen to diverging opinions before making decisions and in addition would first hold himself to a very high level of diligence and accountability and would then expect the same from staff.
Unfortunately after the departure of Mr. Stewart from the City, there had been a complete loss of diligent and accountable leadership. There was an immediate change in the attitude of Mr. Harnum and he became very autocratic and intolerant of differing opinion. In late 2008, he publically stated in front of many staff that he had been good personal friends with Mr. Murray and was his professional referee in Mr. Murray's bid for the City Manager position and now that Mr. Murray has got the position, he will have a lot of leverage and can do anything he wished to. Unfortunately that proved to be more than correct over time.
To deal with the various issues, I had a brief discussion with Mr. Murray in April 2009 and he assured me that they will be looked into. With the issues getting more serious, few weeks later on 13 May 2009, I sent a formal request to Mr. Murray for a formal meeting, in response to which a meeting was scheduled for 8 June by his Administrative Assiatant. However, citing scheduling conflicts, the meeting was cancelled on 5 June and was rescheduled for 16 June.
On June 5, Mr. Harnum scheduled a meeting for the morning of June 9 to discuss WWTP issues. He arrived for the meeting accompanied by Human Resources Director Ms Lorra Fontana and advised me of divisional restructuring and as a result the termination of my services. I was made an offer to leave without making any issue and sign a confidentiality agreement with the City. To me this was a bribe to silence me and not deal with the issues of public interest. I refused to look at the offer and advised them that I will not accept anything over and above the separation terms in my Employment Contract with the City and left the meeting and was disgracefully escorted out of the Hydro Building. I wasn't expecting that kind of treatment (reward!) for my four years of dedication to the community.
I believe that my employment was terminated because I was trying to blow the whistle on inappropriate practices. The termination was in clear violation of the City's Termination of Employment Policy (Non Union) dated Dec 2, 2004, where the very first paragraph of the policy states the following:
'The City of Hamilton acknowledges that there will be circumstances such as corporate restructuring, where it may be necessary to terminate non-union employees "without cause". Where appropriate in such cases, alternate employment offers will be explored which preserve employee dignity and provide meaningful employment before offering a separation package'
As part of so called restructuring my position as Director was eliminated and two new Director positions were created, which were filled by managers within the organization. Based on my educational qualifications and experience, I was more qualified than anyone else in the organization to lead any of the two positions.
I hope that you would look into why the City failed to follow its own policies.
Later on June 16, I showed up at Mr. Murray's office for the meeting and to my sheer disappointment I was advised that since I was no longer an employee of the City, the meeting was cancelled. While I was leaving, I met Mr Murray in the corridor and stopped him and thoroughly explained each and every issue in this letter to him. He took notes of the discussion and assured that he will deal with them. I took his word and believed that he would resolve the issues. Unfortunately, Mr.Harnum's boasts of confidence in Mr.Murray proved more truer than my naivety in viewing the City manager as a custodian of my rights and being loyal to the residents of the city, rather than favor an individual.
Your Worship Mayor Eisenberger and Respected Members of the Council, despite my experiences of the previous months, I continue to have faith in humanity. As do so many people of Hamilton, I too, look towards you as guardians of the public who have been entrusted with the mandate to look after their best interest, their health, safety, and security. My profession compelled me to report all matters to you. It is now for your offices to respond in ways you think appropriate. I feel proud that I didn't betray the faith placed in me by the people of this phenomenal City, and continued to hold their interest paramount, despite being told that it may cost me my job - which it did. As I stated earlier, no office, absolutely no office has the right to dishonor the people who place trust in them - and dishonored they are if their officials don't work for and towards their interest. I am signing off with the hope that you would safeguard the long term interests of the City's residents.
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