Eden Bay en­gi­neers re­leased fol­low­ing ar­rest over sewage

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Ti­mour Azhari

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

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