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Increasing levels of pollution in the Douro River have made it a public health hazard

According to investigators, levels of pollution in the Douro River in Northern Portugal have made it a public health hazard.

This comes after the investigators carried out tests confirming the presence of vibrio cholera, the bacterium responsible for cholera, residues of anti-depressants, antibiotics, anti-anxiety medication and “various other medications”.

Hydrobiologist Adriano Bordalo e Sá explained that “these compounds come from domestic and hospital sewage systems.”

At the height of the summer, the hydrobiologist points out that the “huge demographic pressure as a result of tourism powers contamination”, stressing the situation has not been helped by “negligence and climate change”.

The quality of the Douro River has dropped “alarmingly” since 1985, said the expert, claiming that authorities simply turn a blind eye to the issue.

Porto Borough Council has tried to refute the allegations, telling the Correio da Manhã newspaper that “the company Aguas do Porto carries out daily inspections and checks of the networks. Tributaries are subjected to disinfection by UV radiation, reducing the quantity of E-coli deposited into the waters”.

But many locals are only too aware that something is not quite right. They appear to agree with the argument that authorities are simply not doing enough.

For example, fisherman Augusto Almeida told CM: “I have been fishing in the Douro for 30 years. There is a lot less fish now, and an enormous difference. The colours of the water are not good. I am not an expert but something must have happened for the fish to have disappeared”.

Resident Joaquim Bernardo Silva also spoke with press, claiming: “Tourists and youngsters swim in the water. You can see the pollution on the riverbanks. Unfortunately, this is all caused by sewage problems. We all know this. It’s a real pity”.

Portuguese environment agency APA partly blame the issue on the “pressure” of tourist pleasure boats – particularly large river cruise ships. But one of the leading operators, Douro Azul, has promised that there are systems in place to collect all polluting deposits.

APA is responsible for checking all substances discharged into the Douro. A source from the agency told CM that the greatest risk to the river emanates from the “intense use” of the estuary by all the entities that operate within it.

As a result, meetings have been called with licensing authorities in a bid to regulate the number of firms given the green-light to operate.

However, many question whether taking these measures will be sufficient in tackling the worsening problem.