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Fairbanks-based company builds treatment plants in hostile locales

Posted: April 15, 2013 - 12:04am

FAIRBANKS — It’s been a good year for Lifewater Engineering Co. It’s also been a fairly crazy one.

The Fairbanks-based company, which designs and builds water treatment systems, found itself in the midst of its largest project— creating water and sewage plants to accommodate more than 500 workers on the North Slope.

Under a contract with ICE Services, Lifewater built plants for 200-man and 340-man oil field camps at Point Thomson. The project, which was awarded in January 2012, moved to its final stage Tuesday when dozens of modules began their journey up the Dalton Highway.

It was a big step for a business that started 15 years ago as a modest consulting company. Lifewater owner and president Bob Tsigonis told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner he believes it could also position the company for more big things in the years ahead.

“We made it through, praise the Lord,” Tsigonis said with a smile. “Anything else should be easy after this.”

It’s been an interesting journey for Lifewater, which Tsigonis launched in 1998. In the years since, the company has become well-known for its approach to building wastewater systems in hostile environments.

A series of photos in the Lifewater offices show the construction of a wastewater treatment unit atop Mount. Washington in New Hampshire, in a recreation area considered the windiest location in the United States. The company has also designed systems for everything from permafrost-bound homes in the Goldstream Valley to a plant on Little Diomede Island, located just 2 miles from Russia in the Bering Strait.

For the two Point Thomson systems, Lifewater assembled 22 modules, each measuring 10-by-10-by-40 feet, which will be trucked and assembled on the North Slope. Lifewater will also train operators and service the system after it’s installed.

Tsigonis declined to say specifically how much the contracts were for, but said they are multi-million dollar deals.

Lifewater boosted its staff to 15 employees, about double the size of its typical workforce. Tsigonis said most of those additions were retirees who will depart as work trails off.

“They’ve come on to help us through this time and they’re ready for a break,” he said.

Lifewater typically does everything on its jobs, including plumbing and electric work. But the scope of the Point Thomson project led to the inclusion of a long string of subcontractors — Alutiiq, Universal Welding, Bear Electric, Denali Mechanical, Thot-Pro Engineering, RK Consultants, HB Reuter Engineering, Jon’s Machine Shop, Howee’s Machine Shop and Heritage General Contracting — most of them in the Interior. CampWater Industries from Delta Junction manufactured the camp’s water treatment plant under contract to Lifewater.

Tsigonis said the experience could make Lifewater an ongoing player in the oil field services business. He said he’s in discussions to work on several other large projects, although none of them are ready to be announced.

“It’s kind of taken on a life of its own,” Tsigonis said. “We’re pretty well-known in the industry because of this now. This whole thing has just developed — it’s pretty cool.”

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