Chalillo Dam

Murky waters build behind dam project

Grainne Ryder

February 14, 2002

There’s more to this story than the spin-masters at AMEC and Fortis would have Telegram readers believe, says Probe International in response to The Telegram’s Feb. 5 article.

 


In response to your Feb. [5] article, “Fortis, AMEC reject claims by Probe,” representatives of both companies deny there are any errors in their geological assessment of Belize’s Chalillo dam project.

 

But there’s more to this story than the spin-masters at AMEC and Fortis would have Telegram readers believe.

According to AMEC and Fortis, "no work at all has started" at the Chalillo dam site, but I have recent photos of bulldozers working on the access road, and when I flew over the area in early January, I saw newly cleared survey lines at the site.

Meanwhile, Fortis has not received proper authorization from the Belize government to begin construction.

Fact: independent geologists say that AMEC’s geological assessment of the dam site is wrong and advised the Belize government of this last November. Fortis ordered a second testing of rock samples from the dam site by two independent labs, one in Houston, the other at the University of the West Indies.

Those results came back this month confirming that the Chalillo dam site consists of sandstones and shales, not granite, as AMEC and Fortis claim.

Fact: Belize’s Ministry of Natural Resources — which has yet to grant Fortis final environmental clearance to build the US$30 million dam — has been advised by the Belize Department of Geology and Petroleum that AMEC’s geological maps of the dam site are wrong and must be redone.

Fact: On the same day The Telegram article appeared, quoting AMEC and Fortis in full-blown denial, I met with the chairman and CEO of AMEC in Toronto, Peter Janson and his vice-president of corporate affairs, David Paterson.

Janson told me that he would personally look into the alleged errors in his company’s geological report, saying: "If my company has made a mistake I want to know about it."

Much at stake

As the CEO of a company that provides engineering consulting services to the public, Mr. Janson understands the professional integrity of his company is at stake, and that he has a professional obligation to investigate, acknowledge and correct his company’s mistakes.

Failure to do could ultimately lead to suspension or revocation of his company’s certificate of authorization from the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario (APEO).

Under the Professional Engineers Act, professional misconduct is defined as: "signing or sealing a final drawing, specification, plan, report or other document not actually prepared or checked by the practitioner"; "failure to act to correct or report a situation that the practitioner believes may endanger the safety or the welfare of the public"; or "an act or an omission in the carrying out of the work of a practitioner that constitutes a failure to maintain the standards that a reasonable and prudent practitioner would maintain in the circumstances."

Mr. Janson understands that if he finds his company’s geology report is in error, he is obligated to notify the public in Belize because it is could mean higher project costs and unforeseen risks, all of which Belizeans would ultimately have to bear.

Finally, the claim made by Paterson — that Probe International has never tried to contact those responsible for the project — is dead wrong.

Upon the release of AMEC’s report last September, Probe tried to meet with AMEC but was told by AMEC’s director of communications to take our concerns about their report to the Belize government.

We also brought our concerns to the Canadian International Development Agency, since it paid for AMEC’s report. We are still waiting for their response.

We have also requested meetings with Fortis on three separate occasions since the release of AMEC’s report, and each time Fortis has refused to meet.

AMEC and Fortis must understand that they are accountable to Canadian taxpayers and shareholders for their conduct in Belize, and that Canadians expect them to uphold the highest standards of engineering and public service, regardless of where they operate.

Categories: Chalillo Dam

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