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£50m writ hits smell hell trio

Builders face legal action from United Utilities after sewerage works creates stink

WATER giant United Utilities has slapped a £50 million writ on three contractors accused of botching a Liverpool sewerage works which stunk out local residents.

The legal action comes as a £10 million compensation battle between the utility firm and 12,000 people living close to the plant at Sandon Dock reaches a crucial stage next month.

Residents in the city's Vauxhall and Everton districts began complaining of a strong smell of raw sewage when the plant opened in 2000.The problem was solved last year when a £14 million unit was added to deal with the stench.

The original £30 million contract to build the treatment works for North West Water, as United Utilities was then known, was won by a joint venture between Alfred McAlpine and specialist water firm Biwater in 1998.The designer was Degremont.

All three are now being sued for breach of contract and 'an indemnity in respect of all claims brought against (or losses suffered by) the claimant in respect of odours or substances alleged to have been emitted from the works'United originally filed the writ at the Salford Technology and Construction Court but last month it was moved to the High Court in London.

In the writ, United claims the design provided by Degremont, which is being sued for £25 million alone, was 'defective and did not comply with the express performance requirements of the contract'The firm also claims that because of Degremont's 'misrepresentations' and 'negligent mis-statements' the plant 'never functioned satisfactorily'Degremont declined to comment.

The Alfred McAlpine/Biwater team is also being sued for £25 million after United claimed the pair's design was 'defective and did not comply with the express requirements of the contract. Further, the construction works were also defective' The writ adds: 'Because of the defective design and/or construction, odours and substances are alleged to have been emitted from the works and local residents have indicated substantial claims against the claimant accordingly.'

A spokesman for the Alfred McAlpine/Biwater jv said: 'We are defending this resolutely.'

The residents' legal action is being spearheaded by Runcorn law firm Silverman Livermore which submitted a 22-page claim to the High Court in Liverpool over the summer detailing their grievances.

United was due to respond to this earlier this month but has now been given until early November to make clear its position.

Residents' solicitor Doug Fraser said: 'If they don't accept they owe us compensation it will go to trial.'

Some residents said washing had been impregnated with the smell of excrement being spearheaded by Runcorn law firm Silverman Livermore, which submitted a 22-page claim to the High Court in Liverpool over the summer, detailing their grievances.

United was due to respond to this earlier this month but has now been given until early November to make clear its position.

Residents' solicitor Doug Fraser said: 'If they don't accept they owe us compensation it will go to trial.'

Some residents said washing was impregnated with the smell of excrement while others complained the stink affected their ability to sell their homes.United Utilities said it could not comment on ongoing legal action.