Andalucia as a sewer for European toxic waste?

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toxic waste

NERVA – The residents of Nerva, a town in the Spanish province of Huelva in the Andalucia region, are alarmed and outraged. For 24 years they have to deal with a toxic and hazardous waste dump just a stone’s throw from their homes.

The landfill is becoming “Europe’s drain”, say environmental groups. The situation has not improved with an additional 12,000 tons of hazardous waste from Montenegro in the southern Spanish landfill. Very recently, the first boat with 5000 tons of waste arrived in the port of Seville, followed a few days later by a second with a cargo of 7500 tons of toxic waste.

110,000 tons of toxic waste

Around 500 trucks transported the waste from the Andalucian capital to Nerva. The Spanish environmental organisation Ecologistas en Acción videotaped their arrival. Distributed photos also show how toxic dust clouds appear when the drivers unload the waste.

“The first homes are just 700 metres from the landfill,” Juan Romero of Ecologistas and Acción told El Público newspaper. The organisation repeatedly points to the ecological impact of the landfill. The ‘disturbing fires’, dust clouds, and stench that arise there cause a lot of nuisance to the population. Since the toxic dump was created in 1998, polluted water has also been discharged into the nearby river Tinto.

Dubai and a luxury port for superyachts

Earlier in 2019, 40,000 tons of chemical waste came to Nerva. In total, this concerns about 110,000 tons. It comes from the dismantling of a shipyard in Montenegro. “Behind the dismantling of the shipyard in Bijela is a company from Dubai. Together with a Montenegrin company, it wants to build a luxury harbor for superyachts there,” says Romero.

Collapse risk

The Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge granted permission to transfer the waste to Nerva. The Andalucian government also agreed.

Cogesa Expats

All this is in a landfill that is about to reach its limit. “Spain simply does not have the technical capacity to process hazardous waste responsibly. The Nerva landfill has been in danger of collapse for far too long,” Carmen Molina, coordinator of Alianza Verde in Andalucia, told El Público. “We cannot allow Nerva to become a drain for hazardous waste. That is why we demand an investigation into the true extent of this situation. We want the authorities to take measures to prevent this problem from continuing any longer,” said Juan López de Uralde, Unidas Podemos delegate, and Alianze Verde coordinator. 

Protest action against the toxic waste

Over the past week, representatives of various environmental groups protested in the port of Seville against the arrival of toxic waste. They demand that the authorities close the landfill to prevent Andalucia from becoming “the drain of Europe”.

The mayor of Nerva, José Antonio Ayala was also present at the protest. He demands explanations from both the central government and the regional government. He wants to know why waste from Montenegro is dumped in Nerva. “They do not comply with the distance criterion that applies to the transport of toxic waste. The law states that waste must be taken to the nearest landfill. The distance between Nerva and Montenegro is more than 3,000 kilometres. Trade seems to be more important than the safety and environmental regulations.”

Landfill closure not yet insight

In addition to all the environmental and health problems caused by the toxic waste, there is also an economic problem, Romero points out. “The manager of the landfill, Ditecsa, no longer pays the municipality for the compensation measures. It concerns an amount between €6 and €7 million. Nerva is the only municipality in this area that is in debt.”

In 1998, the authorities also hoped to attract related activities with the landfill. It would be good for employment in the area. Romero says about this: ‘any supermarket nowadays has more employees than the landfill’.

Anyway, for now, the closure of the landfill seems to be a long way off. The current government even wants to expand it and keep it open until 2036.

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