Wrangles stall opening of LatAm's biggest water plant in Mexico

Friday, May 6, 2016

For second time, the inauguration of the Atotonilco water treatment plant in Hidalgo state in central Mexico – the largest wastewater treatment project in Latin America – has been postponed, this time for another four months.

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The problem on this occasion was political problems, Atotonilco project director Ricardo Morayta Martínez told BNamericas.

"The plant was not inaugurated because the works have been closed for the last four months by the mayor of Atotonilco de Tula. I would like to say that this is an illegal closure, and that was what the judge ruled, but politics is like that," he said, although he did not provide further details.

The plant was originally scheduled to be opened on December 24 last year, but that was pushed back to April 27 due to certain amendments made to the contract.

Morayta believes that the plant could be inaugurated and operating at 100% of capacity in early August, if the problems can be resolved within the next two weeks. 

Currently, only a portion of the operating staff of the plant have access to the facility, he said.

Authorities in the Atotonilco de Tula were not available to comment on the issue.

The plant is currently treating 7.5m3/s of wastewater, Morayta said, although in December 2015, the plant was already treating 10m3/s of wastewater. He did not explain why it is currently treating a smaller volume of water.


Construction of this plant has run into various challenges, Morayta said, adding that, there is a problem with the treatment of the wastewater that arrives at the plant due to the quantity of sludge during the rainy season.

Also, "the plant receives a quantity of garbage and sludge that is much higher than originally estimated, which means the waste removal screen become clogged in a matter of hours," he explained.

The plant operators have been cleaning these screens frequently as a temporary fix, but the problem is still being analyzed with national water authority Conagua to find a final solution, the official said.

Once in full operation, the Atotonilco plant will treat 42m3/s of wastewater, with 28m3/s going to biological treatment and 14m3/s to biochemical treatment.

The plant will treat 60% of the wastewater from the metropolitan area of Mexico City.

The design, construction and operation of the plant is being carried out by a consortium comprised by IDEAL, Acciona Agua, Atlatec and ICA at a cost of 10.1bn pesos (US$569mn), or more than US$100mn over the original budget.