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Environmental Concern Over Contaminated Ground

During the excavation of a new WWTP (Wastewater Treatment Plant) near the pedestrian walkway that links Praia Formosa to Câmara de Lobos at Ribeira dos Socorridos, oil thought to have been used by the Madeira Electricity Company (EEM) was discovered. Creating, not only a storm of controversy and condemnation, but leading to a team of experts from both the Office for the Environment and Climate Change and the Madeira Electricity Company to investigate the site.  

Attending the scene, the Secretary for the Environment and Climate Change, Susana Prada said that she had been advised of the contamination, but said that she regretted that the Funchal City Council had been slow in providing relevant information. She further added, that she was only made aware of the situation on Monday (15/06) and immediately sent an environmental inspection team to the scene.  Furthermore, she said, the hydrocarbons (oils and residues) composition needs a thorough and detailed examination; this will be done outside the region and could take a couple of weeks to complete 

Local newspaper sources say that the Madeira Electricity Company will assume responsibility for the decontamination of the space. Which is just as well, as Susana Prada holds the public company responsible, saying that the contamination originated on an EEM site, so “all costs inherent to the decontamination of the land will be borne by the company.” 

The CDU-Madeira have now waded into the argument saying that between 1999 -2000 complaints were made about ‘environmental crimes’ that EEM were thought to have committed in the area.   

In their statement, the political party claims that “When, several of these situations were presented by members of the CDU, both the EEM and the Regional Government of Madeira denied everything.” And now, the discovery of these ‘oil wells’ at the mouth of the Ribeira dos Socorridos, finally means that the illegal dumping of industrial waste from the Victória Power Station has been uncovered.  

The CDU also recalls that for more than 20 years, they “had filed a public complaint, requesting answers about the problems associated with dumping ‘hydrocarbon residues’ in Madeira.  It was at this time that both the EEM and the Regional Government of Madeira denied everything, and to show good faith, took CDU deputies on a guided tour of the Victória facilities. Finally, without proof of negligence or criminal liability, the case was closed by the Public Prosecutors Office.  

As it stands, the party is outraged, as for 20 years they sought to find proof of negligence, and now that it has come to lightthe EEM have said that they will pay the decontamination costsBut it does not end there, as the party wants to hold a public enquiry into both the Electricity Company and the Regional Governments actions  These are to:

A) Determination of political responsibilities for malicious practices and for violating the public interest. CDU / Madeira will request the urgent holding of a Parliamentary Hearing to inquire of former government officials who covered up the crime, starting with the former President of the Regional Government of Madeira, Alberto João Jardim, as well as the Board of Directors of EEM. 

  b) Appeal to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to determine liability for a crime against the public interest. As it is proven that there was a whole process of premeditated camouflage of a crime against the environment and against the public interest, more than by the acts in question, whose prescription could be invoked, there is now the verification that the superior regional interest has been put concerned by those who had to watch over the public good. 

Later on this afternoon, COSMOS – The Association for the Defense of the Environment and Quality of Life, also joined the debate and has requested that the Public Prosecutor Office investigate the deposit of hydrocarbons at the mouth of the Ribeira dos Socorridos.

In a statement to the press, they demand that the Public Prosecutor’s Office must intervene immediately, not only because the situation is highly damaging to the environment and public health, but should also be investigated until guilt of malpractice is proven.

Sidetracking from the issue at hand, the political party has further condemned EEM’s intention to build floating wind towers in the seas off Madeira, saying that they are not only absurd and reprehensible, but also highly damaging to the islands maritime landscape and tourism, which is of vital economic importance to the island’s inhabitants.

Samantha Gannon

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