Campaigners are denouncing what they describe as “an environmental attack” on Monchique. The Monchique-based A Nossa Terra Association claims that there was a ‘serious’ release of polluting material into the River Nave on August 16 and claims that the source was the nearby ETAR (Water and Residue Treatment Centre).
A spokesman from the association explained that he had been contacted by the inhabitants of Brejão in Monchique, who use the river for irrigation purposes, and were concerned about the water. He went to investigate and uncovered what is described as “a deeply worrying situation”. There was “an unbearable smell and a stream completely covered with a white frothy scum”. The association said locals are “desolate at the destruction of their culture and the fact that plantations and water tanks in the region are full of this liquid”.
According to A Nossa Terra, the liquid in question emanates from the Nave ETAR, which “discharged polluting materials directly into the stream with suspended particles, a smell and dreadful appearance”. The group claims the damage unleashed “is already very evident and is jeopardising the health of the resident population, as well as consumers of horticultural products and aquatic species”.
Now, A Nossa Terra has warned the CCDR (Commission for the Co-ordination of Regional Development) that “public health and environmental riches are at risk from such events happening again”. It has advised the commission “to inspect the area diligently to prevent the future discharge of pollutants from the ETAR and to ensure that adequate resources are introduced to ensure that water basins throughout the concelho are free of pollution”. The organisation claims that, because tourism is one of the key industries, the contamination is particularly disturbing and cannot be ignored. Caldas de Monchique, a major tourist attraction, is located near the ETAR.
However, the President of Monchique Câmara, Carlos Tuta, denies that the discharge of waste stemmed from the Nave ETAR. Tuta maintains that the discharges emanated from pig farmers who were “polluting the waters”. He says the contamination arose upstream from the ETAR, in direct contrast to the accusations made by A Nossa Terra. “The ETAR is functioning well and I have the analyses from the Institute of the Environment to prove it,” says the President. As for assertions made by the environmental association, Tuta considers they are merely engaging in “political point-scoring” and that “they lack any credibility whatsoever”.
Tuta says that he has already been in touch with various official bodies, including the Regional Environmental Organisation, the Ordenamento do Território de Lisbon e Vale do Tejo (DRAOT) and with the Algarve CCDR to inform them about the situation. He said he is now waiting for a formal stance to be adopted by these organisations.