The process was filed in the Loulé Chamber in July 2020, but it is only now, more than a year later, that the issue came to the fore. The construction of a Waste Treatment Center, in an old quarry, in Matos da Picota, on the side of National Road 270, near Boliqueime, is causing controversy.
In the residents, the revolt is such that they will create an association that defends their interests. On the part of the Chamber, the president guarantees that he was only aware of the project a few weeks ago and that it will fail. If you don't comply, there will be "many people knocking on the door of the municipality every day with problems".
Nuno Alexandre lives near the old Barrabrita/Manuel Joaquim Pinto quarry, a space that has been deactivated for years and has been abandoned.
Last Friday, December 3rd, he was one of the citizens who spoke at the Municipal Assembly of Loulé to contest the project, worth around 653 euros, which aims to create "a dump" in that location, "400 meters from houses and of a primary school'.
“This will have a general impact for the council. We cannot even think that this project will go ahead. All of us, the region, tourism and public health will have a lot to lose», says Nuno Alexandre to Sul Informação.
In that same Municipal Assembly, Vítor Aleixo, president of the Loulé Chamber, was questioned several times. The mayor assured that he "is against" this unity and that, with the people he has already spoken with, "it was very clear".
“The residents are absolutely right. That is a unit with a huge area: there are 4,5 hectares. I will fight this to the end, with all my strength. I think I have a great deal of weight in these environmental issues and I will oppose it», he said.
O Sul Informação obtained access to file 257/20, despite this having been refused by the Loulé Council. When consulting the documents, one can better understand the history surrounding the creation of this Waste Treatment Center.
And what waste are we talking about? Organic, unsorted, electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), expanded polystyrene (EPS), shredded and baled paper/board, as read in the process.
The company Blueotter – Circular SA, which is the project's proponent, says it wants to transfer the «activity carried out» in the current facilities in Boliqueime «to a unit that is better dimensioned and technically more adapted to the response needs».
“The acquisition of this property (Matos da Picota) and the transfer of the activity currently carried out in Boliqueime arises from the existing constraints on the current facilities”, he explains.
Currently, Blueotter has a unit, next to the CP Station, in Boliqueime, which, despite being much smaller than the one designed for Matos da Picota, already bothers “the populations”.
«People can smell the odour: there is garbage in the area, projected by the wind, plastics», reports Nuno Alexandre.
From the beginning, the process has always been “jumping around” between the Urban Planning Division and the promoter. In such a way, that the forecast for the beginning of the works (November 2020) was largely surpassed.
The Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) and EDP have already commented on the matter and the process is also taking place in the Algarve Regional Development Coordination Commission (CCDR), the entity that has the authority to demand that an Environmental Impact Assessment be carried out .
In an email sent to the municipal services, the Sul Informação gained access, the APA considers that the “urban planning operation under consideration” – of converting existing structures into a “waste sorting unit” -, “will not have significant interference with groundwater resources”.
Therefore, this entity issued a "favorable opinion" to the creation of the Waste Treatment Center.
EDP also did it, but in a conditional way. This is because the area is "crossed" by the "Medium Voltage Line (LMT) FR15-201 Vilamoura – Loulé and the activity to be carried out under it may jeopardize the integrity of the line, as well as the safety of people and goods", explains.
Thus, EDP gave a "assent subject to the obligation" of Blueotter to change this "electric line".
But one of the main complaints of the residents has nothing to do with the issues dealt with in the opinion of the APA, as it relates to the "bad smells" that the installation of this unit will bring to the area, if it goes ahead. This is even referenced in a petition that has already collected around 1200 signatures.
In terms of emissions to the air, Blueotter says that "there are only diffuse emissions from some of the mobile equipment allocated to the installation".
«In order to minimize diffuse pollutant emissions, a preventive maintenance plan is carried out in accordance with the provisions of the manual for each equipment», he guarantees.
As for noise, since «noisy operations will take place inside the pavilion and, due to the absence of sensitive receptors in the surroundings, it is not expected that complaints of this nature will occur», the company points out.
At the last Municipal Assembly, the topic was also debated among the various parliamentary groups. On the part of the PSD – a political force that has more deputies in the opposition – a recommendation emerged that was voted on: suspend the PDM in that location, preventing any type of work.
This was not, moreover, an unprecedented decision by the Municipality of Loulé, which has already activated this mechanism twice: in the Foz do Almargem area (where a tourist mega-enterprise was planned) and on the land where the weekly fruit market is held. , in Quarteira – one of the only places in this city where there are no buildings.
The Social Democrats' proposal was unanimously approved, with votes in favor of all the benches. Despite being just a non-binding recommendation, the PSD/Loulé has already considered, in a press release, that “this is a clear signal given by the Municipal Assembly of Loulé for the municipality led by socialist Vítor Aleixo to be swift and effective to solve this potential problem'.
On the part of the president, the guarantee is that the Chamber, which has already been contacted by the CCDR, will give a "negative opinion".
“They won't have the consent of the local authority to license something like this. That is a strategically placed area, with a fabulous panoramic view, and, for me, it is inconceivable that anyone would want to install something like this there», said the mayor Vítor Aleixo, at the Municipal Assembly.
In one of the latest communications between the municipality and Blueotter, the municipal services rejected the project for "insufficiency and incongruity of elements", to which is added the fact of not complying with the rules of the PDM and the "non-compliance with legal norms of Security Against Fires'.
Even so, "reconsideration, if remedied" is allowed for these issues. In other words, on the part of the Chamber's services and in formal terms, there is nothing to oppose the Waste Treatment Center project.
Residents guarantee that they will continue to fight against this project and will even create an association to defend their interests. “We have also been in contact with the resident foreign population, with the CCDR, with the Ministry of Environment and with associations such as Almargem”, says Nuno Alexandre.
“We have nothing against the company, which, when it bought the land, certainly asked the executive high questions. We have, yes, against the purpose. That is a unique place, you can see it from Via do Infante and this could be our “visiting card”. It is a project that is only interesting for the project sponsor, nobody else».