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  • Statement published on Regional Environmental Concerns during EU Inspectors visit to the Bay


    “The ESG is concerned that the ongoing political situation is seriously affecting agencies and governments ability to effectively address critical environmental issues which have a regional bearing and which are currently getting very little airplay.

    Throughout the summer our group has highlighted the ongoing sewage contamination at Western Beach which has threatened public health and is widely known to be caused by a storm drainpipe illegally discharging raw sewage from la Linea. And still nothing is done about this at an official, legal or European level. Instead we have witnessed complete silence on the part of La Linea’s municipality on this and our Government taking steps to attract bathers to this contaminated area.

    These past few weeks has also seen sewage and chemical pollution affecting several spanish coastal areas only brought to the publics notice by NGO’s from the Spanish side.These relate to Spanish sewage discharges into Bay waters from Algeciras through to Palmones and highlights sewage management is a critical issue for spanish citizens.

    The latest reminder of the intense air and water pollution from the industrial and chemical installations in the Campo area came in the form of a 2012 report (commissioned by the spanish authorities) that nickel levels found by air monitoring systems were among the highest in Andalucia and was linked to Acerinox, a steel processing plant located in the Bay. Given the report is an official paper its possible that the levels admitted are conservative and could conceivably be worse. This is not a surprise to the ESG. There have been copious reports over the years emanating from Spain on the Bay’s air and water quality which have generally confirmed the pollution caused by the chemical industries. The problem is enforcement of regulations and this requires agency action.

    The ESG has learnt from cross border environmental colleagues that another key worry is how the spanish economic crisis has further weakened the official agencies ability to monitor industrial activity. This is a very grave situation as major chemical installations such as those located in the hinterland need strict and independent
    evaluation and monitoring because any slip in standards or shortcuts in safety practices can have dire consequences for the health of all Bay communities as well as the living environment. Sustained chemical discharge into air and water systems will naturally enter the food chain and hence affect our health. Monitoring of industry standards is obviously a critical matter which should come under the microscope of any EU Inspection team worth its salt.

    Although being stuck for hours in hot vehicles and delays at the border are clearly very unpleasant, the longterm environmental problems in the region are a real health concern.

    Throughout our campaigns particularly on the CEPSA Oil Refinery and petrochemical industry which is massive and has expanded exponentially in the past two decades, we have tried to get our voices heard, at cross border level, over the genuine fears, supported by a growing number of health studies, that such industries could be causing higher than average mortality and disease in the bay area. MEP Neil Parish organised for a party from Gibraltar including the ESG, a global public health expert from Barcelona, a top legal adviser, and a global industry activist, to take our health and environmental issues to the heart of Brussels. They heard but did not act. Mr Parish urged the Commission to visit the area, see the installations for themselves, ageing infrastructure/proximity to schools, nurseries and residential areas – in complete defiance, in fact, of most health and safety regulations. But they did not come. We persevered with the support of our technical and legal advisers, cross border petitions, and more recently via the support of MEP Sir Graham Watson. Some progress has been made but it has taken much longer than it should. Our industry expert compared our Refinery problem as a “slow Bhopal”. Global Community Monitor, Denny Larson produced a detailed report for Mr Parish who pressed these directly into the hands of those officials in Brussels whose job it is to ensure that environmental standards and regulations are being met. And still the inspectors did not come.

    We therefore wish to publicly request the team of inspectors heading to Gibraltar to give us an audience so that we can directly appraise them of the regional longstanding environmental issues which affect all Bay citizens health and wellbeing and that will prevail unless serious action is taken – long after the politcal troubles have faded into the background. We shall remind them of the 14,000 strong cross border petition calling for help from the European Commission to see independently commissioned epidemiological studies done at a cross border level to assess the full impacts of the toxic chemical industry that many of us are living next to and undeniably affected by.

    Please refer to the ESG’s website at : www.esg-gib.net for more information on the groups regional environmental campaigns in Brussels.”