Oozing sewage: Peru to sue Chinese and Japanese firms for treatment plant that doesn’t work

The government of Peru is taking legal action against a Japanese consultant and a Chinese contractor over a $58m sewage treatment plant that has been sitting idle for two years because it doesn’t work.

Problems with the Japanese-financed plant include ground subsidence, cracks in the walls, and poor connections in the pipe network which caused sewage to ooze from manholes.

A local utility was supposed to take over the running of the plant in 2016, but refused on account of the defects, and it has sat inoperable since. Now, the national government is taking action against the firms, reports The Japan Times.

The failure is a blow to the city of Iquitos, the plant’s location, where only around 60% of the population had access to sewerage in 2007, a year before the project began, reports the Times.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) provided ¥6.66 billion (about $58m) in loans for the plant, which was intended to stem the flow of raw sewage into the Amazon River.

The two countries signed the deal in 2008, with Peru selecting a Tokyo-based consulting firm to handle the design and oversee the construction process.

A Chinese contractor was picked to build the treatment plant, pipe network, pumping station and related facilities.

Trial operations began in 2013, and the local utility was to have taken over the plant’s operation after a year, said the Times.
Problems arose, however, and the plant has sat idle since August 2016.

That month, JICA disbarred contractor China International Water & Electric Corporation (CIWEC) and NJS Consultants Co. Ltd. from any JICA-funded work for six and five months, respectively.

JICA said it was because CIWEC "committed negligent operations", and NJS "committed false statements, negligent operations, and wrongful or dishonest acts" in relation to the Iquitos Sewerage Improvement and Expansion Project.

According to the Times, while Peru pursues the companies through the courts, it is planning to recruit a private company to invest in the treatment plant.

"We humbly acknowledge that we were not through about quality management and will do everything we can to prevent a recurrence," a representative of the consulting firm NJS said, reports the Times. "The Peruvian government is demanding we take responsibility for the design and overseeing the project, but these problems were caused by an act of God and failures on the contractor’s side."

A JICA official said: "We humbly acknowledge the findings and will improve our practices."

Image: Traffic in the city of Iquitos, Peru in 2008, when the project began (MaSii/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

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