Photograph taken in April 2019 in which it was recorded & # 243; The landfill of the Hidroel & # 233; ctrico Ituango Project, in the Colombian department of Antioquia (northwest). . / Luis Noriega / Archive
Medellín (Colombia), Sep 7 . .- The conglomerate of Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) confirmed this Monday the existence of a root cause study that concludes that the emergency at the Ituango hydroelectric plant under construction, in the northwest of Colombia, was presented for a « conjugation of errors » in the design and construction of the project.
The power plant, located in the department of Antioquia (northwest), was declared in emergency in May 2018 due to technical problems apparently the consequence of alleged irregularities in EPM’s contracting processes.
The problem began with a landslide that blocked the tunnel that diverted the waters of the Cauca River, the second with the largest channel in the country, which was dammed by the reservoir under construction.
Faced with the danger that the flow would break the dam, the engineers decided to flood the engine room whose construction was well advanced and remove the water in a controlled manner.
Despite being dated August 2, 2019, the report prepared by the reinsurers of the Hidroituango project, which sets out the reasons why the diversion tunnel collapsed in May 2018, was only revealed this Monday in a publication by La W Radio.
« Much to our regret, a document from the organization was leaked again, » said EPM manager Alvaro Guillermo Rendón, who assured in a press conference that he learned about the 98-page study on August 18, as it was never filed or included at the junction when he took office.
« The reinsurers report was never officially filed; we learned about it from some officials who had it locked away, » said the manager.
CONJUGATION OF ERRORS
Rendón underlined that the study indicates that « there are constructive errors, of the designers and in the concepts of the advisers, and that combination of errors is being certified by those who speak for the reinsurers. »
He specified that Mapfre is the insurance company that has global coverage for 2,500 million dollars and that it has some reinsurers.
« Suramericana reinsures it by 13% and the Global London pool of companies has the other 87% of those 2,500 million dollars, » he explained.
For the EPM manager, this study constitutes a new test for the conciliation tables that will be held after the conglomerate sued for 9.9 billion pesos (about 2,600 million dollars) from the builders of Hidroituango and the insurers of the draft.
The Consortium Generación Ituango (Integral – Solingral) participate in the conciliation; the CCC Ituango Consortium, made up of Construcoes e Comercio Camargo Correa S.A., Conconcreto and Coninsa Ramón H., and the Ingetec and Sedic Consortium, among others.
The appearance of the new study fueled the controversy that began after the mayor of the city of Medellín, Daniel Quintero, announced the lawsuit to compensate the damages caused by the megaproject, which caused the resignation of eight members of the board of directors of EPM.
Through his Twitter account, the local president assured that the reinsurers’ report was hidden by the previous administration.
« Since August 2019, when Federico Gutiérrez was mayor, the reinsurer’s opinion was known, concluding design and construction errors in Hidroituango. The document was hidden by those interested in not suing contractors, » Quintero said.
He also pointed out that former EPM executives agreed that the reinsurer’s report « should not be integrated into the process as is customary, to avoid suing builders and not feed processes in control bodies. »
CAUSES OF COLLAPSE
The study prepared by experts in soil geology and mechanics reveals that a « combination of unresolved problems » between design, supervision and construction caused the emergency.
Among the conclusions is that the support installed in the Auxiliary Deviation Gallery (GAD) collapsed between September 22, 2017 and April 28, 2018 due to the flow of water, since it was « very irregular and the soil was eroded » .
It also reveals that there were up to 25% fewer screws or rock bolts in that section of the tunnel.
Between May 12 and 24, 2018, during the most critical moment of the emergency, relief agencies had to evacuate 17,184 people from populations downstream of the dam, due to the risk that the water from the reservoir would overflow the dam of the hydroelectric.
This unleashed a crisis in the Lower Cauca region of Antioquia and, to a lesser extent, in the Caribbean departments of Córdoba, Sucre and Bolívar, watered by the waters of Cauca.
According to the EPM manager, currently the technical risks are « reduced to a minimum », and therefore the project is at an 80% execution level.