After a meeting with officials last week following a demonstration outside the Câmara, the activist group PoluicaoSilves, a group of Silves residents, are making progress against the pollution and noise produced by the Amorim cork factory.
The meeting was organized under the leadership of the Deputy Mayor of Silves, Dr Maxime Sousa Bispo, and the Deputy Mayor of CCDR-Algarve, Mr José Pacheco.
Present at the meeting were the following organizations: Municipality of Silves, CCDR-Algarve, Amorim Cork Insulation (ACI), Pestana and the group "Vizinhos da Fábrica".
The objective of this monitoring and coordination meeting is to have all the parties in one room to discuss the problems and find solutions, working together, with or without sanctions.
The problem is that the emissions of Suberin (white smoke), fine particles (PM10) and the intense noise are seriously affecting the health of the neighbouring population.
Amorim Cork Insulation (ACI) presented the actions it has taken since 2021, without demonstrating many real results for the neighbouring population. The improvement works of last December and January have resulted in increased efficiency and production for ACI, plus the filtering of black smoke.
So far, no work has been carried out to ensure that significant noise is actually reduced. There is also no guarantee that changes will be executed this year to reduce Suberin and small particulate matter or PM10 emissions.
ACI stated that they have started with acoustic insulation of some pipes, with technical support from a company contracted for this purpose. ACI is working with an engineering firm to design the equipment to filter the Suberin or white smoke from the vapor emission. The goal is to no longer have white smoke or smell, but only some steam coming out of the chimney. The Suberin filter was planned to be built in 2 phases. Phase 1 of the Suberin filter was planned to be completed in December of this year, but unfortunately, all indications are that work has now been postponed until next year.
The delay in resolving the identified anomalies has proved disappointing for the authorities and the plant's neighbours. For this reason, Vice President Maxime Sousa Bispo has ordered the ICA to do the following:
1. Communicate the status and schedule of the RTO pre-filter installation design work, and its completion deadline, by September 30, 2022.
2. Assess the reduction of the plant's operating hours until the RTO pre-filter is installed, ensuring that it is at least closed on Saturdays and Sundays, in order to mitigate the environmental nuisance caused to the neighbouring populations during, at least, weekends, which are normally rest days.
3. Present an industrial licensing application for the alterations to be made to the manufacturing unit, with a view to resolving the anomalies identified, by 15 October 2022, which includes the installation of the RTO pre-filter, the reduction of operating noise and the storage in an appropriate and closed location of the residues, compounds and other elements resulting from cork burning, until they are forwarded to an operator legally qualified to eliminate them.
4. Present a general plan of noise reduction, without prejudice to the normal course of the legal procedures already set in motion by the Municipality of Silves aimed at imposing the execution of soundproofing works on the equipment installed outside the manufacturing unit.
5. Hold a new meeting to monitor and coordinate the works in November 2022, on a date to be scheduled in due course.
Both the Municipality of Silves and CCDR-Algarve have made it clear that the procedure underway must be transparent and supported by clear information, so that all parties involved can have confidence in the process, and, above all, there must be concrete, secure and peremptory deadlines, so that, with some security and confidence, an end to the process is known, with the resolution of the smoke and noise anomalies. The authorities have made it clear that unjustified delays or delays attributable to ACI will not be tolerated and will lead to legal sanctions.