Azores “hoping for advances” in Lajes’ airbase cancer-scare decontamination

The pressing case for decontamination of land on Terceira island, in the Azores – as a result of decades of activity by the US Air Force – is back in the spotlight today, thanks to a visit to the archipelago by President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Vasco Cordeiro, president of the Azorean government, has said he is hoping at long last for some kind of advance.

As was reported last week, MPs are demanding action, citing cases of cancer that have started showing themselves in the area (click here).

It is a long-drawn out story that began over a decade ago when the US military itself identified 35 separate locations contaminated by hydrocarbons and heavy metals which have leaked into underground aquifers.

The island’s CDS-PP vice-president Félix Rodrigues says it is time to act, though today Cordeiro has intimated that the island may have to wait another few weeks for the next bilateral meeting between Portugal and the US.

The latest ‘delays’ had to do with the changeover of administrations, from outgoing Obama to incoming President Trump. Said Cordeiro, at the last meeting the problem was that some US officials were up to date with the situation, while others weren’t.

His words suggest the archipelago is giving the problem ‘the benefit of the doubt’ until December, but won’t be happy leaving it any longer.

Félix Rodrigues, for example, wants action right away.

But “in the final instance”, if no agreements emerge from the December meeting, Portugal itself must make good the ‘damage’.

Explains Lusa, Cordeiro considers there is “legal foundation in the Law of Regional Finances for this perspective”.

The issue boils down to where the money for decontamination will come.

The Azores clearly think it should come from the United States. Says Lusa,
“following the announcement on January 8, 2015, of the reduction of US presence at Lajes, the Azores presented an economic revitalization plan for Terceira island, in which it asked Lisbon to secure from the US 167 million euros per year, for 15 years.

“More than half of this amount – € 100 million a year – is intended for “reconversion and environmental clean-up” of infrastructures and land built and occupied by the United States over the past 60 years”.

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