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Legal battle freezes wastewater overhaul

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image CESL Asia has yet to receive a dime for running the Areia Preta wastewater plant because the contract has not yet been signed, chief executive officer António Trindade confirmed

The Macau peninsula wastewater treatment plant “is in an appalling condition,” the current operator says, but the infrastructure’s modernisation project remains on hold as a legal dispute over the public tender rages on.
Last October, a consortium composed of local company CESL Asia, Portugal’s Indaqua and mainland China’s Tsing Hua Tong Fang took over the Areia Preta plant, after winning a tender for its operation, maintenance and modernisation.
But, more than four months later, the reconstruction plan has yet to take off, the chief executive officer of CESL Asia, António Trindade, confirmed to Macau Daily Times yesterday.
“The plant was not adequately treating the wastewater and it remains in a sorry situation,” he explained. As a result, the executive added, it’s too common for the surrounding buildings to be affected by rogue emissions.
With Areia Preta going through a shift from a mostly industrial area to a residential district, there have been growing complaints from residents over the impact of the wastewater plant.
Last October the deputy director of the Environmental Protection Bureau acknowledged the issue. “In fact we have planned to set up monitoring equipment around the wastewater treatment plant to check whether the smell from the plant is distressing nearby residents,” Vong Man Hung said at the time.
“I feel that the situation has improved a bit since we took over but it’s still far from being ideal,” Trindade stressed yesterday. “The fact is it’s impossible to fully solve this problem without launching the modernisation plan,” he added.
The project “worth hundreds of million patacas” includes an expansion of the plant’s capacity to treat 48,000 cubic metres per day and the introduction of a different method to treat the wastewater, a membrane bioreactor process.

No pay

The consortium, headed by CESL Asia, will operate the infrastructure until 2016 but “this plan should have been introduced as a matter of the utmost urgency and of public interest,” Trindade emphasised.
But a legal battle over two bidders that were wrongfully excluded from the public tender launched in March 2010 has made it impossible to start the construction works, he admitted. “It’s harming the development of the investment we had planned.”
In addition, the businessman revealed, the consortium has yet to receive a dime for the operation of the plant because the five-year contract worth MOP 604.9 million has not yet been signed.
“Obviously companies rely on payment for their services in order to survive. But luckily we [CESL Asia] are a company with credit in the market and a healthy financial condition,” he said.
However, Trindade has warned that the consortium is looking at the issue as “a temporary situation that should be solved as soon as possible, not only for the good of our company but also for the good of the Macau population”.
Local courts have decided that two bidders – a Sino-Belgium consortium led by Waterleau and Indian-Austrian company Va Tech Wabag – were excluded from the public tender for the plant operation due to a lack of documents or qualification.
The latest verdict from the Court of Final Appeal came on Wednesday, leaving the Administration with 30 days to enforce the court decision. Authorities could restart the public tender for the Areia Preta plant or try to reach a compensation deal with Waterleau and Wabag.
“The government respects the decision from the final court and the relevant legal staff is analysing the judgment from the court. At the same time, the government will continue to ensure the normal operation of the Macau peninsula wastewater treatment plant,” a Infrastructure Development Office told MDTimes.

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