Setúbal’s imported toxic waste scandal generates heat

As nearly 7,000 tons of ‘suspect’ Italian garbage sit “awaiting treatment” at Setúbal’s landfill centre, two new ‘issues’ are generating further heat.

The first is that CITRI – the company which has brokered a deal with Italy to import as much as 60,000 tons of rubbish into Portugal – is owned by a former member of the last PSD government.

And the second hints at the kind of money this extraordinary business of moving waste matter round Europe can generate.

According to an RTP investigation, CITRI – the integrated centre for industrial waste treatment at Mitrena (Setúbal) – headed up by former secretary of state for the environment Pedro Afonso Paulo, stands to make “up to nine million euros” accommodating rubbish that for reasons connected with the Camorra mafia has been lying untreated in Italy for years (click here).

While RTP’s Sexta às 9 highlighted the issue last week, Setúbal’s mayor Maria das Dores Meira entered the mix saying her council wants the rubbish – which has been steadily arriving at CITRI’s plant since last month – “immediately returned to Italy” if concerns over its content prove to be founded.

The trouble with this argument is there is simply too much money involved.

Environment minister Matos Fernandes is therefore on a mission of “damage control”.

Talking in parliament on Tuesday he said: “I understand that the brouhaha generated over this material has meant that IGAMOT (the environmental inspectorate) has had to become involved, given that one, and just one parameter – that of dissolved organic carbon – is superior to what was hoped”.

But Matos Fernandes insisted that “there is no reason to consider the Italian rubbish dangerous” – a description used by various news media since the outset of this story.

Thus, CITRI has been given until Friday to “soundly clarify” “irregularities” that have been discovered, and in the meantime further consignments of Italian rubbish have been arriving at from Lo Spesso, a town 20 km from Naples where five million tons of urban rubbish has been festering for years.

Meantime, Italy is being fined by the EU at the rate of €120,000 per day.

As RTP has explained: “The solution is to export as much as it can” – and there are only “four European countries authorised to receive the waste: Portugal, Spain, Bulgaria and Romania”.

Despite Matos Fernandes’ performance in parliament, RTP maintains that most of the rubbish that has arrived since the controversy broke last month has been found to have “unacceptable levels of dissolved organic carbon”.

“These analyses were only performed after the investigation launched by RTP”, adds the station
Thus, ‘everything hinges’ on CITRI ‘soundly clarifying irregularities’ found in the rubbish, which Matos Fernandes pledges has been “properly analysed” from Italy with “documents that are now in the hands of APA, the Portuguese Environment Agency”
“If the results confirm these facts, there does not appear to be any problem with the rubbish being deposited” in Portugal, he concluded.
Needless to say, PCP communists are demanding a meeting with Matos Fernandes, APA and CITRI.

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