Huge numbers of dead fish have been found in the Tagus, asphyxiated by pulp bleaching effluent which a factory dumps into the river.
Pitiful scenes are captured in a video taken of a branch of the river near Vila Velha de Ródão which has been posted on social media.
The video, taken by a Pro Tejo Association activist, Arlindo Consolado Marques, shows the "brutal death" of the fish which died due to a lack of oxygen in the heavily polluted water. For the video, click HERE
"I was alerted by a crayfish fisherman and I went there on Thursday. I had already seen several cases of massive fish death because of pollution in the Tagus, but never on this scale,” said Marques, adding that he immediately reported the situation to the GNR. but nobody bothered to turn up.
“The river is dead along that stretch, there are thousands of dead fish and there are others gasping which means they are afflicted by a lack of oxygen and are going to die soon," reports Marques.
This pollution of the Tagus only happens downstream of Vila Velha de Ródão, "We all know that the culprit is the pulp mill, everyone already knows this," says the activist, referring to the emissions of effluents by Celtejo - Empresa de Celulose do Tejo, S.A., a member of the ALTRI Group since 2006, which produces Bleached Eucalyptus Kraft Pulp (BEKP) for paper production and states that it has "guidelines that focus on economic sustainability, environmental preservation and strict quality certification, we permanently invest in the total satisfaction of our customers. But we want to go further. For Celtejo, the limit is perfection."
The company's management says it ensures that it meets the legal discharge parameters and is not responsible for the pollution.
In the video, Arlindo Marques appeals to the prime minister to intervene, "Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Costa, are not you ashamed to have a country in this situation?"
The activist also says that this scenario is only the tip of the iceberg and that the pollution of the Tagus is having many more devastating effects as fishermen have been complaining about the pollution and say it has been increasing, especially along that stretch of river.
Because of 'the pollution of the Tagus River near Vila Velha de Ródão,' the Left Bloc has demanded the Environment Minister appears in front of the parliamentary environment committee to answer questions.
The Left Bloc considers the episodes are serious and require a public explanation of the latest incident, calling already for immediate measures and recommends an investigation into the discharges from Celtejo’s pulp mill.
On December 1st, 2016, a 'question to the Commission for a written answer' was submitted to the EC about 'Pollution of the river Tagus'.
The question read, "For many years the river Tagus has been continuously polluted, along the whole of its length, by industry and private individuals. The present state of affairs is posing quite a serious danger to the survival of the river ecosystem and the health of the people living along the waterside, as can easily be demonstrated by images and video footage of dead fish on the surface of the river and expanses of water filled with foaming industrial effluent.
"It has been reported that ARHtejo has granted a licence to Celtejo - Empresa de Celulose do Tejo, S. A., a company producing bleached pulp, and which is owned by the Altri group and based in Vila Velha de Ródão - allowing it to keep discharging its polluting waste into the waters of the Tagus for at least two more years (until December 2018).
"The proper authorities have been informed about the situation, but nothing has been done to resolve it.
"Several (EU and Portuguese) laws are being infringed, not least Law No 58/2005 of 29 December 2005 (the Water Act), which has transposed Directive 2000/60/EC (the Water Framework Directive) into Portuguese national law.
"Q. Is the Commission aware of the facts described above? 2. What will it do to make Portugal comply with the rules now being contravened?"
The answer given in January 2017, by Mr Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, read as follows:
"Member States are responsible for taking the necessary measures to reach the environmental objectives set in the Water Framework Directive. The directive includes an obligation for Member States to produce River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) and to review and update them every six years.
"The second RBMP for the Portuguese hydrographic region ‘Tejo e Ribeiras do Oeste’ was adopted in June 2016 and communicated to the Commission in September 2016. Complete electronic reporting of this Plan is currently being prepared by the Portuguese authorities.
"In this RBMP, Portugal identified 3 water bodies in the Tagus basin that are in less than good status due, at least partly, to the emission of pollutants by Celtejo. The Programme of Measures that is included in the RBMP includes a measure, to be financed by the company, to reduce the pollutant load being released to water.
"An interim report on the implementation of the Programmes of Measures is due in December 2018. The Commission will, on the basis of its assessment of the 2nd RBMPs and of the interim reports of 2018, decide whether there are indications of systematic problems with the implementation of the Water Framework Directive and which further action to take if that is the case."
The bureaucrats waffle, the Portuguese authorities do nothing and the polluter has continued with the EC and State's blessing.