Worlds most expensive drain 

Something smells bad in Bonaire.
More than 20 years after the need for a sewer system to protect Bonaire’s reef was confirmed, it is about to begin full operation. Its cost has been astronomical [from €20 up to] – €34.5 million – which means each [vacuum-] connection to the 607 households, 73 hotels and businesses costs more than €50,000 each [for 3,000 to 4,000 people (p.e.)]. And that cost is after the project was downsized because the contractor’s price was significantly more than the available funds. The coastal strip where the buildings would be connected, was reduced from 500 meters to 200 meters from the sea, the size of the [vacuum] sewer pipes were specified a smaller diameter and a system malfunction remedy was deleted.

The Institute for Water Education in Delft [UNESCO-IHE] concluded that the cost-per-connection is among the highest in the world. There is no doubt that a system to remove wastewater from the coastline is mandatory. Bonaire is surrounded by a coral reef which attracts tourists from around the planet. The reef is harmed when the nutrients from sewage promote the growth of algae which smother the sensitive coral polyps. The newly-installed sewage treatment system will pipe the wastewater from facilities within 200m of the most populated coastal zones to treatment facilities near the center of the island. The treated water will be sold at low prices for agricultural use [flowering hotels]. 

Concerns about the project were raised as early as [2003] 2004. Motivated by a recent freezing of future funds by the European Commission, a fraud investigation by OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, is escalating.

Development funds from the European Commission and The Netherlands have been used to pay for the work. The payments were overseen by the Development Foundation of the Netherlands Antilles (SONA). The allegations of fraud were raised by Kay HETZER, a fired team leader of the company that oversaw the sewer project who testified that, “I had to leave in 2011 because I did not cooperate in the fraud. I always had to pay more than the contractor was permitted under the construction agreement. That amounted to €250,000.” 


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