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Seymour-Capilano Water Filtration Plant, Canada

Key Data


With a daily capacity of two billion litres, the Seymour-Capilano water filtration plant in Metro, Vancouver, became operational in May 2010. The newly constructed plant supplies safe and clean drinking water to the city's residents.

Not only is it Canada's largest - and one of the biggest of its kind in North America - but it also uses the world's largest ultraviolet disinfection facility, as well as showcasing a series of innovative features to maximise its energy efficiency. Extensive use has also been made of sustainable and environmental technologies in its design and construction.

In addition to the filtration and UV plants themselves, the project also includes a 16,000HP pumping station, an energy recovery facility and break head tank, an electrical substation, two 3.7m-diameter tunnels (due in early 2014) extending just more than seven kilometres and new water storage clear-wells. An allied programme of work provided a new water main and undertook a major upgrade to the Seymour Falls Dam to meet current seismic standards.

The project budget was C$600m and attracted partial external funding. A fund of $100m was jointly invested by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia for the plant.

British Columbia's Local Government Grant Program provided $18m for a pumping station near Capilano Reservoir and Cleveland Dam. The Metro Vancouver budget sanctioned $328m of funding.

Greater Vancouver's increased water demand

"Extensive use has also been made of sustainable and environmental technologies in its design and construction."

Greater Vancouver's drinking water comes from reservoirs located in three watersheds - Seymour, Capilano and Coquitlam - with the Seymour and Capilano watersheds supplying some 75% of the region's drinking water.

The project was driven by tighter federal and provincial quality requirements and the regional medical health officers' demands for lower levels of turbidity, coupled with a predicted population increase of 800,000 during the next 20 years.

To meet these challenges - and the anticipated increase in demand - in 2001, the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) decided to build a filtration plant, the contract originally being a design-build-operate, public-private partnership (locally termed P3).

However, after a massive public campaign, this contract was set aside to enable the new plant to remain in public hands.

Seymour-Capilano plant details

The facility, which has been built on an eight hectare site in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, treats water drawn from both Seymour and Capilano reservoirs. Water arrives from Seymour, some 11km to the north, along the existing 2.3m-diameter main, while the new twin tunnels will convey Capilano water to and from the plant - the return arm being gravity-fed.

The plant design itself is largely conventional. Water from the two reservoirs enters a rapid-mix head works, where coagulant is added. From here it enters flocculation basins and is subjected to a slow mix process. The subsequent direct filtration phase uses a two metre deep filter dual-media bed, consisting of anthracite and sand and from here the filtered water enters the UV disinfection unit.

Flowing into treated water storage clear-wells, the pH is then adjusted before the water enters the Capilano and Seymour distribution networks. UV disinfection was selected for the plant - using mercury vapour lamps installed inside quartz protective sleeves - principally because of its proven effectiveness against both giardia and cryptosporidium. However, although the plant uses UV as its primary disinfection regime, secondary chlorination remains a feature, to guarantee the safety of the potable water travelling through the municipal distribution systems.

Design of the Seymour-Capilano filtration plant

The 37,000m3 plant consists of inlet blending, 12 flocculation cells, 48 filter cells, equipment galleries, an operation and maintenance complex, backwash equalisation and treatment facilities and a residue handling facility.

"A fund of $100m was jointly invested by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia for the plant."

The plant is installed with $35m worth of equipment, including 24 flocculators, 48 filter underdrain systems, 24 UV reactors, switchgear, MCCs, transformers, generators, belt filter presses, blowers, sludge collection equipments and so on. The transfer pipes are 132in in diameter and layered with carbon steel. The Seymour-Capilano plant also includes a post treatment facility.
Seymour-Capilano twin tunnels

The plant will connect Seymour and Capilano water resources through underground twin tunnels. The twin tunnel is located at North Vancouver, British Columbia. Each tunnel is 3.2m in diameter and 7.1km long.

It took six years to excavate, one year to install, and will take an additional two years to fully operate the tunnels. The excavation and installation work was completed in 2012. It is expected to be commissioned by early 2014.

Sustainable technologies at the Canadian filtration plant

With the plant itself being in a conservation reserve, unsurprisingly the project was planned in strict accord with the GVRD's Sustainable Region Initiative. As a result, it has drawn heavily on sustainable building, environmental technologies and best practices.

These includes the use of EcoSmart concrete, which reduces the greenhouse gas emissions of cement production and utilises industrial by-products, such as fly ash, to reduce the demand for landfill.

Green roof technologies have been incorporated into the roofs of the clear-wells and filtration plant and measures have been put in place to reduce storm water run-off. An energy recovery facility and the associated break head tank recovers energy from the water in the gravity-fed tunnel between Seymour and Capilano, reducing the pressure of the water prior to its reaching the distribution system.

This recovered energy is used to generate electricity, which is either used by the GVRD or sold to the local power company.

The plant also makes use of ground source energy to heat and cool the entire facility, maximises its use of daylight and natural ventilation, and conserves energy and water. The site will be re-planted with appropriate native species.

Contractors for Vancouver's Seymour-Capilano project

The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) was the project sponsor. Emerson Process Management provided the plant's digital automation, with instrumentation and controls from RTS and control hardware provided by Norpac. AMEC delivered the facility training programme.

Greater Vancouver Water District (GVWD) is the owner of the project. Pacific Liaicon & Associates act as a consultant for the Seymour-Capilano water facility. Seymour-Cap Partnership, a joint venture of Frontier-Kemper, J. F. Shea, and Aecon, received a contract from Metro Vancouver to complete the twin water tunnels for GVWD in 2010.

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Construction of the new two billion litres per day plant was completed in 2008.
Geothermal piping was laid at the clearwells during the summer of 2005.
The Capilano pumping station.
Aerial view of the filtration plant; it occupies a site of around eight hectares.
Artist's rendition of the filtration plant.
Artist's rendition of the filtration plant elevation.
Aerial view of the thickener tanks, which were constructed in 2007.
UV units in the filter pipe gallery.
The filtration pipe gallery. The project was largely driven by the need to reduce turbidity.
The residuals management building from the air.