Alex’s Intern Experience – Getting Up to Speed at Water Treatment

New piping (coloured) added into the existing fixtures at the Dewatering Building.

Hi everyone, my name is Alex Jonker. I’ll be entering my third year at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada studying geological engineering, and this summer I’m working with Alberici Constructors Ltd. the Canadian division of the company, at the Woodward Ave. Wastewater Treatment Plant in Hamilton, Ontario. This is my first summer interning with Alberici and certainly my first time experiencing what a large-scale project is like, although in this case I’m catching the tail end of the project as much of the construction is already complete.

I’ve been told that this project is about 95 percent complete, which initially made me wonder if it would finish before the end of the summer, but several people have assured me that the “final five percent is 50 percent of the work”. I haven’t necessarily worked out how that math adds up, but I’m definitely beginning to understand what they mean when they say that.

Because of this later stage of the project most of the construction is already complete, which is actually really interesting since I can walk around the site and see all of the work that has been done. It’s interesting to compare brand new buildings with buildings that have been renovated since in those you can see the new equipment that has been installed and how it integrates into the pre-existing structure of the building – something that surely isn’t always the easiest to figure out. The project is likely to be ongoing for a while longer before finishing and while many construction milestones are complete, several major milestones remain, mostly focused on commissioning new equipment, testing it and handing it over to the City of Hamilton ready for operation. A major part of this is the brand-new electrical power center which will distribute electricity throughout the plant, and also houses four massive backup generators in case of a prolonged loss of electricity from the main grid.

One of two 80,000 L diesel fuel tanks outside of the electrical power centre store fuel for the backup generators to be able to run for extended periods of time in emergencies.

A significant part of my job so far has been to help organize and keep track of how far along in the commissioning process each newly installed piece of equipment is. There is a detailed system of files and documentation for each subcategory of equipment which details certification and testing processes as well as training and maintenance manuals that will all eventually be handed to the client to ensure they can operate the new equipment. I’ve been adding any new documentation to the multiple locations where it is kept as well as ensuring that there is parity between the City’s documentation and our documentation. The more fun side of this task is when I have to go out onto the site to find equipment and record information off of it to add to the system, as this gives me the opportunity to explore the jobsite and see everything that is involved in a major construction project.

I think my favourite part of my experience so far has been just to be able to go into a jobsite to see what goes on and everything that is involved with commissioning a building. I get the feeling that it’s easy to think of a building as simple when in reality there are hundreds of fixtures and systems at play that require a lot of documentation and organization, so it’s really interesting for me to be able to see it all coming together. Overall, I’ve learned a lot so far on the job site and can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store!