Two PSD opposition MPs claim there is evidence of two incidents at an industrial plant in Vila Velha de Ródão, which forced a company to pump waste directly into the Tagus river on January 16th and 22nd.
MPs Duarte Marques and Nuno Serra, visited the river on Monday, accompanied by local leaders and party officials to assess the pollution that has created a blanked of pollution over stretches of the river’s surface.
On January 24th, a this foam lay about half a meter deep, covering the Tagus in the Abrantes area, in a scenario described as “Dante-esque” by the environmental group proTEJO and as “scary” by the local mayor.
Last Friday, the Environment Minister, João Matos Fernandes, announced a set of measures to address this source of pollution, including the removal of the foam that covered the river, the reduction of the activity at Celtejo and the removal of sediment from the bottom of reservoirs.
Celtejo – Empresa de Celulose do Tejo, operates a pulp mill in Vila Velha de Ródão where it produces Bleached Eucalyptus Kraft Pulp and has a licence to pour the resulting effluent into the Tagus (‘Tejo’ in Portuguse) river, up to a limit.
According to Duarte Marques, these pollution accidents may happen and the “law provides for the authorities to be alerted within 24 hours”, but “the problem is when these accidents are recurrent and are hidden, as Celtejo seems to have done.”
The MPs demand a permanent monitoring of this area of ??the river Tagus, to ensure Celtejo stays within the law, “There is a set of companies that pollute the Tagus, the government has to have the means to find out who they are, monitor their activities and stop them.”
Duarte Marques said that the pollution in the river Tejo, “does not come from Spain nor does it fall from the sky. It is related to the discharges of several companies, as shown by the analyses made to the over the last few years.”
The MPs said that the Abrantes foam removal project, ordered by the Government, “is only a cosmetic operation”, as, even though clears up part of the river, “this does not solve the fundamental issue.”
On the plus side, the MPs said that the foam detected last week has had the positive effect of “forcing the authorities to act forcefully,” and to start taking action.
Duarte Marques said that the environment minister assured parliament that existing resources and legislation were sufficient to monitor and control any pollution incidents in the Tagus, but stated that there is “lack of courage to implement it” and insisted on the proposal to create “a court specialising in environmental matters”.
“The solution is not to close companies, but to ensure that they produce according to the capacities of their effluent discharge license and according to the Tejo’s ability to dilute these effluents,” said the MP.
As for Celtejo suing local activist Arlindo Consolado Marques, for €250,000, Duarte Marques said these accusations were “only meant to silence those who are not afraid to come forward.”
The Attorney General’s Office said on Saturday that the Public Prosecutor’s Office has instituted a survey of companies in Vila Velha de Rodão following contamination of the Tagus river as reported by the Ministry of the Environment.
The above content produced by swissinfo.ch is not intended for commercial use and may not be republished by third parties either wholly or in part.