Still thereresidues remain, the licof functions remains (partially) suspended, but, after all, in what state is the waste management plant in Vale da Venda, where, on July 14th last year, a fire broke out and continued to burn for more than a month?
The case is complex, involving the courts, the Algarve Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR), the Loulé Chamber, the municipality in which the plant is located, despite being on the edge of Faro, and the company that owns the space, Inertegarve.
Four days after the start of last year's fire, the CCDR announced that it had suspended the license of the “trash bin”, a procedure that was developed in collaboration with the GNR, with a view to «urgently resolving this environmental problem», this public entity clarified at the time.
Now, in statements to the Sul Informação, José Pacheco, vice-president of CCDR, explains that the company that owns the Waste Management Center appealed in court of that decision, asking for permission to place the ashes in another space, but it was not authorized and the court ruling, which came out on June 16th, ruled in favor of the CCDR.
«We did not authorize it due to legislation, which requires analyzes to be carried out to see what type of burned waste resulted. Only then will we be able to authorize, or not, deposition in a space that the company [Inertegarve] has next door or know whether it will have to be sent to a landfill licensed for that purpose. That residue may have become dangerous with combustion, and it is necessary to know the results of these analyses».
What happens is that it is up to the company to carry out the analyzes legally, with a certified laboratory and the proper collection of samples, something that, according to the CCDR, has not happened so far.
Contacted by Sul Informação in July, Inertegarve stated that the analyzes “were carried out, in a certified laboratory, last year, and the results were delivered last November 2022 to the entity licensing the activity”, that is, the CCDR.
José Pacheco clarifies that «the laboratory is, in fact, certified, but the collection of analyzes was not carried out in accordance with normal procedures».
«The sampling of the analysis was not certified or carried out by an environmental technician certified for the purpose», he says, noting that the CCDR «has already expressed its availability and intention to monitor when the company wants to collect the analysis». However, Inertegarve has not yet responded.
If there are no analyses, there cannot be a full license again.
«Currently, the license is partial because they can separate the waste they have there, they cannot receive more, because the place where the reception is, according to the project, is the one where the fire occurred», explains José Pacheco.
Also speaking to our newspaper, José Apolinário, president of CCDR, admitted that the Algarve «needs these establishments to fulfill the objective for which they were licensed: collection, selection and recovery of waste. We are a circular economy, but the legislation on this is very clear and says that, in order to have an establishment of this nature, certain requirements must be met», which, in the case of Inertegarve, is not happening.
Even so, if the analyzes are carried out under the appropriate conditions, it is not enough for the CCDR to issue the activity license, it is also necessary for the Loulé City Council to issue the occupation license.
«The conditions under which the activity is carried out is not a matter of responsibility for Loulé City Council. The Chamber is responsible for ensuring the good condition of the environment, so that it is not harmful to public health, and it is in this measure that we follow. We have played a proactive role so that what happens inside that bin can never harm people's health", he told the Sul Informação Vitor Aleixo, mayor of Loulé.
Even after the toxic smoke released by the slow fire that burned for more than a month at the waste management plant in Vale da Venda has been extinguished for a long time, the mayor of Loulé says that the Chamber continues to monitor the situation, with visits to the location, to “find out if there are signs or complaints of signs of smoke. If there is, for us, it is a warning of a threat to public health. And, to that extent, we do not stop monitoring the situation on the ground».
Questioned by Sul Informação Regarding whether the plant continues to pose a danger, the president of the CCDR responds that it does not.
«There is one thing that is important to say: we maintain, together with the GNR, the Civil Protection and the Loulé firefighters, monitoring the situation», guarantees José Apolinário.
For his part, José Pacheco emphasizes that «the objective is to prevent it from becoming an environmental liability, because then the problem will be for all of us».
Chronology of events
The fire at the waste management plant in Vale da Venda started on July 14th 2022, at 10:45 am, at the same time that a large fire was taking place in Quinta do Lago, which spread to the municipality of Faro.
On July 18th, the “dumpster” was still burning and the CCDR suspended the license. Four days later, the Union of Parishes of Faro appeared “concerned” due to the “smoke plume that invaded the city of Faro, with strong intensity, causing serious inconvenience to the population».
In a press release, the municipality called for “the mobilization of all appropriate and necessary means to quickly extinguish this fire that is affecting the health and quality of life of more than 50 thousand people in Faro”.
In August, the “dumpster” continued to burn and regional health delegate determined that “immediate termination” was necessary.
According to the person responsible, the assessment at the site “included the determination of the concentration of Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, Benzene, Particles in Suspension in the Atmosphere (PM10 fraction), Ozone and Sulfur Dioxide, with values above the indicative reference levels for the parameters PM10 and Benzene particles”.
also Victor Aleixo, Mayor of Loulé, at that time demanded that Inertegarve extinguish the fire as quickly as possible.
In September 2022, after the toxic smoke had been extinguished, the mayor of Loulé spoke out stating that «given that this is not the first time that this situation has happened in this unit and that it is a danger to public health, I think that the company's activity license should be cancelled».