10 June 2019

An image of the state of the Hidtroituango powerhouse

Posted by Dave Petley

An image of the state of the Hidtroituango powerhouse

A year ago I wrote several times about the major problems being faced by the operators of the Hidroituango dam in Colombia, which had suffered from significant landslides and rock mass failures, which in turn drove emergency works to complete the embankment to allow the spillway to be used to manage the lake level.  One effect was flooding through the cavern housing the turbines.  Since then it has been quite challenging to understand properly the state of play with this facility as work continues to repair the damage.  Images have emerged at various points showing the state of the Hidroituango powerhouse, all of which seemed to show substantial levels of damage.  Last week, Patricia Garip, an independent journalist, published on Twitter what appears to be the definitive image of the condition of the facility.  It is quite shocking:-

The Hidroituango powerhouse

Image of the state of the Hidroituango powerhouse in June 2019. Image posted to Twitter by Patricia Garip.


Clearly the level of damage is high, with complete destruction to much of the concrete infrastructure, and heave damage and erosion to the remainder.  At the far end of the cavern there is a very substantial debris accumulation.  It is not clear to me as to whether this is a collapse of the rock mass or sediment deposited as a result of the flooding.  Interestingly, there also appears to be considerable amounts of water present on the ceiling and walls of the cavern. I wonder why.

The authorities responsible for Hidroituango continue to assert that the damage to the site is repairable, and that Hidroituango will be generating electricity by 2021.   Works continue to seal the various tunnels to secure the site, allowing full restoration to proceed.  However, some questions continue to be asked about the integrity of the rock mass through the mountain, especially in light of the landslide problems at the site.

I would be interested in comments from those who know more about the true picture of this key project.