Contaminated soil and groundwater on former site of Matosinhos refinery
The image of Galp's vision for the future, but beaches around Matosinhos have been affected by 'contaminated water' for years...

Contaminated soil and groundwater on former site of Matosinhos refinery

Construction of Innovation City hinges on radical environmental clean-up

Portugal’s largest oil company GALP has said it is “only to be expected” that land around its former refinery in Matosinhos is contaminated.

The admission comes following a recent report by Portuguese environment agency APA.

A source for GALP told Lusa that although the company “does not know which APA opinion is referred to, a refinery was in operation for 50 years at that location, so it is expected that the land will have to be subject to remediation”.

APA confirmed yesterday that the site that GALP means to cede to the city council for a futuristic ‘Innovation City’ is deeply contaminated.

GALP assures it is working on a plan for dismantling, decommissioning and decontaminating the land that has to satisfy various environmental licensing bodies before it can actually be used.

Decontamination is to be carried out in phases “over several years, in accordance with the decommissioning plan that must be approved by the APA”, writes Lusa.

Quizzed as to whether these conclusions make the construction of Innovation City unfeasible, GALP seems to think not.

The response from the company has been that “the need for decontamination does not make the execution of the project unfeasible, quite the contrary, it is an essential step for the regeneration of that territory”.

But APA’s assessment, carried out by Petrogal, determined the existence of “unacceptable risk for future users considering a possible residential or industrial use”.

The situation could be overcome “with appropriate risk management measures”, APA concedes, but these measures also have to protect construction workers “who may be involved in possible interventions”.

Contacted by Lusa, the Municipality of Matosinhos has said it is unaware of this latest assessment, stressing at this stage that discussions are between the APA and GALP.

“Matosinhos City Council will only accept the land, applying in that parcel the investment available from the Fund for a Just Transition, after the guarantee that the risks are properly safeguarded,” said an official source.

And this may end up being the problem.

Back in April last year, mayor Luísa Salgueiro suggested that the plot (at the north end of the 260 hectare site) earmarked for Innovation City “would not need to be decontaminated because it had no equipment or activity” from the refinery.

The Innovation City concept is for “an urban, social and environmentally sustainable ecosystem, including trade and services, hotels, restaurants, industry 5.0, housing, cultural and leisure facilities, with emphasis on a ‘Green Park”, all powered by “energies of the future”.

But the Fund for a Just Transition ‘expires’ in 2027. Thus the question will the phased decontamination “over several years” still qualify when the site is finally deemed clean?

Source material: LUSA