A new Wastewater Treatment Plant serving Faro and Olhão is to be built earlier than planned. The problem of the illegal dumping of raw and poorly treated sewage currently being pumped into the Ria Formosa area will end after an investment of an estimated €14 million.
The mayor of Olhão, António Pina, already has told the shellfishermen affected by the downgrading of their shellfish nursery beds that, at an Águas do Algarve board meeting last week, it was been decided to begin the process of building a new treatment plant, which will replace two old ones serving Olhão and Faro.
The mayor is to initiate the Environment Impact Assessment for the area where the new plant is proposed, "the first step is the approval of the Environmental Impact Study. The second, having approved the location, is the preparation of specifications and to receive tenders for the work.”
“If there are no problems with the environmental impact report then the Board of Directors of Águas do Algarve will award the work to a contractor by the end of 2014," said the delighted mayor. The Algarve's councils have a seat at the Águas do Algarve board but the previous plan was not to start this process until 2016.
The construction of this new treatment plant has been talked about for years as the lack of capacity at the two current treatment plants has caused increasing problems to water quality over large areas of the Ria Formosa area.
A short-term, interim solution that is being looked at is to divert sewage that now goes to the clapped out Faro treatment plant to the modern one that serves the airport area.
Olhao’s council-owned water and sewage company Ambiolhão is already studying how to stop the pollution flowing in the Ria Formosa through the inadequate rainwater drainage system in the town which currently discharges without treatment into the dock, marina and river area.
In a rare and laudable example of civic responsibility the mayor, on behalf of the council, commented “"We, the Board, assume our responsibility."
The city council has been in the firing line ever since the shellfish production areas in the Ria Formosa saw their rating downgraded by a hastily issued government edict late last year.
The local fishermen live in and on the local waters and have been aware for years that the council has allowed the pumping of sewage and untreated waste water into their workplace, something that now is not refuted by mayor António Pina.
"We have already started to study the three major wastewater outfalls,” announced Pina while admitting that the problem is not limited to these three outflows, but that they are a major part of the problem. "We can not say we'll solve everything. This is a 20 year old problem. I hope that within three months we will be able to present concrete proposals to mitigate this problem. Already €500,000 has been set aside at Ambiolhão to address this issue."
So, a new treatment plant and sorting out the foul water that runs under Olhão into the Ria Formosa area, but what of the long awaited dredging which is the final act needed to free up the river flow and restore fertility and production levels at the shellfish areas?
From the Sociedade Polis Ria Formosa, still no news, but António Pina did say that dredging will "improve water quality by 50%."
If the above actions all happen on time then the mayor of Olhão is to be congratulated for taking the real concerns of his constituents seriously. The fishermen of Olhão may be at the lower end of the economic scale but they all have a vote.