Lebanon News

Eden Bay engineers released following arrest over sewage

Bulldozers in Ramlet al-Baida are seen removing cement that had been poured underground, as workers search for the blocked pipe, Nov. 16, 2018. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Two engineers working for the Eden Bay Resort were released Friday after they were arrested the day before in connection with flooding tied to the blockage of a nearby sewer.

The engineers were arrested Thursday based on a decision by Investigative Judge Charbel Abou Samra. An appeals court headed by Judge Maher Cheato overrode the decision Friday afternoon, and they were released soon after.

“This decision shows that the investigative judge’s order to arrest [the engineers] was wrong,” said Bahij Abou Mjahed, the lawyer of Achour Holding that owns Eden Bay. The Daily Star could not independently verify the grounds for their release.

Abou Mjahed confirmed the engineers had been arrested based on alleged violations to Lebanon’s penal code in connection with the flooding scandal, but would not name them, citing the ongoing investigation. He declined to say whether anyone else from Eden Bay had been called in.

Beirut Mayor Jamal Itani said Friday that nobody from Beirut or Ghobeiri municipalities had been brought in for investigation.

The activist group Beirut Madinati has said it discovered a new informal sewer earlier in the week that was spewing wastewater into the sea behind Eden Bay to deviate it away from the resort.

“We can clearly see two lines near the resort now, one with normal storm water flowing near the Eden Bay, and the other is behind and it smells foul,” Beirut Madinati member Mona Fawaz told The Daily Star. Fawaz shared images that seem to show dark water flowing into the sea behind the resort.

Abou Mjahed and Itani said they did not know of any new deviation to the sewage network.

Itani said Beirut Municipality was completing a study on a long pipe that would dump sewage a kilometer into the sea as a “temporary measure” until sewage treatment plants in Ghadir and Burj Hammoud were up and running.

He said the project was not in service of Eden Bay, adding they had been working on it for a year. He also said the study was not final, and a full environmental impact assessment of the plan would be conducted.

Thursday’s arrests were the first in the ongoing investigation into the mid-November incident when heavy rains led to severe wastewater flooding in Ramlet al-Baida.

The flooding was related to the blockage of a sewer that empties out next to the controversial Eden Bay resort, which takes up a large portion of Beirut’s last public beach.

Officials have traded blame for the incident, with Beirut Governor Ziad Chebib saying Eden Bay had blocked the sewer, but that Ghobeiri Municipality was also responsible. Ghobeiri Municipality, in turn, blamed Chebib, who it said had allowed the sewer to remain blocked in service of private interests, apparently referencing the resort.

The sewer was reopened following the scandal, and empties out across the beach, into the sea.

Abou Mjahed has previously denied the resort’s culpability in filling the sewer with concrete. He instead placed the blame on Chebib and the Council for Development and Reconstruction, who he said had failed to properly manage Beirut’s sewage system. Additional reporting by Behbod Negahban

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 08, 2018, on page 3.




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