Sunday, April 2

El Médano, the town in the south of Tenerife that got fed up with swimming in polluted waters

Vicky Colomer’s dream was to retire in the dune. Calm and good weather characterize this small town in the south of Tenerife. Until very recently, it was one of the favorite enclaves for the residents of the island to spend their free time. Now the presence of sewage water on the coast, the dirt of the beaches and the streets and the tourist saturation have transformed this “paradise” into an “abandoned neighbourhood”. Vicky, who bought a flat there, is now thinking of selling it. “It cannot be that the town only lives for tourism. We (the neighbors) eat the remains. Garbage, pollution, crowds, not being able to park and the problems that leave us. We didn’t catch anything good, ”she concludes.

Third discharge of sewage in just one month in bathing areas of the Tenerife municipality of Granadilla


For two weeks, the town’s balconies have been covered with posters in protest. The main demand of the residents is to put an end to the discharge of polluted water into the sea. “Welcome to El Miérdano”, “No more poop in the sea”, “For an efficient treatment plant” or “Danger! The people get sick from swimming in poop” are some of the phrases that can be read on the facades of the houses.

It is common for the island’s beaches to be closed due to the presence of the bacteria E.coli in the ocean. This microbe is found in the stomach of humans and reaches the ocean through sewage outfalls. These large pipes carry the supposedly purified water from the Wastewater Treatment Plants to the bottom of the sea. However, the currents carry these flows up to the surface and towards the coast.

“In these years the population has multiplied uncontrollably. There has been no control of sanitation. More houses have been built, that implies more toilets, but we have an obsolete water treatment plant that bursts every two by three. That is why we have El Médano contaminated almost daily. The waste goes directly into the sea, without purifying it”, explains Vicky Colomer.

The mayor, José Domingo Regalado (Canary Coalition), has recognized this lack. “The main problem has been not having a water purification system or facilities in line with the population growth it has had for decades,” he points out.

The Granadilla de Abona City Council justifies that the municipality currently has a budget of more than 40 million euros for different actions in the field of sanitation and to improve wastewater treatment. The projects are part of an agreement between the Cabildo de Tenerife and the Sociedad Mercantil Estatal Aguas de las Cuencas de España (Acuaes).

Some works have already started and are expected to finish in 2024. Among them are the wastewater treatment and pumping station in Ensenada Pelada, a wastewater treatment plant in Los Letrados and a wastewater treatment plant in the industrial estate and the sewage collectors. midlands of Charco del Pino and Granadilla.

But for the neighbors, the solutions come late. Dani is a professional windsurfer and has lived in El Médano for 30 years. “The problem has always been there. I remember when he organized the world championship that was held in the town and the eminent people who came complained about the poor state of the water on the pier, ”he narrates.

His family has lived on the front line the consequences of bathing in contaminated water. Three years ago, in February 2020, her son was admitted to the hospital after spending a day at the beach. “At that time I was already pissed off about the water issue. Sometimes I would leave the beach because of the bad smell there was, ”she begins.

“That day my son caught his first waves with a board. He swallowed a lot of water and that same night he started having strong tremors and contractures in his body. The next day we went to the medical center and they told us that there was nothing to worry about. Shortly after, he presented blood in his urine, ”he continues. The health workers explained to him that he had caught a bacterium of unknown origin and that his own body had begun to kill his red blood cells. At only three years old, Daniel’s son suffered a stroke.

After several months fighting for his life, little Daniel survived. “Now he is cognitively almost 100%, but it costs him much more than his classmates to learn at school and he still does not control his right hand,” says his father. As a result of this, the windsurfer began to investigate the impact of wastewater on people’s health.

The man from Tenerife criticizes that the measurements to check the good state of the water are carried out during the week, since the weekends are when the municipality receives more visitors.

Sergio, who was born, raised and lives in this town in the south of Tenerife, shares the concern. “We have lived in ignorance. Before when we got sick we didn’t attribute it to possible bacterial infections. Today people are starting to think about it. The problem has been growing exponentially with the amount of population there is, and authorizations for new apartments continue to be issued”, he says.

In 2021, the Granadilla Investigating Court number 2 began to investigate the City Council for an alleged crime against the environment and natural resources for discharging wastewater into the sea with insufficient treatment since at least 2017, “a risk situation for the health of people and the general conditions of the ecosystem”.

Beyond the deficiencies in the purification of the water, the neighbors agree that the problem begins in the houses. Wipes, compresses and even diapers continue to be thrown down the toilets. Outside the sea, in the streets of the town, the neighbors also denounce that it is common to find cigarette butts, plastic bags and cans. “There are cleaning teams, but they are not enough. People need to be educated, and I see a total passivity on the part of the City Council”, laments Vicky.

With the aim of reviving and recovering the town, the residents have begun to organize themselves. “We want to form a large group of neighbors who contribute ideas, solutions, for better and for worse. To protest, but also to create spaces for leisure, exhibitions, meetings”, proposes the neighbor.

They have also created the Stop Dumping Platform. With the aim of knowing the impact that the presence of wastewater on the beaches of the municipality has on people’s health, the Tenerife Association of Friends of Nature (ATAN) is disseminating a form. Otitis, skin rashes, heartburn, gastroenteritis, nausea, fever or abdominal pain are some of the symptoms that they have already been able to detect.

“Health risks can be very varied, depending on several factors such as the age of the individual, the time of exposure in contaminated water, routes of entry of pathogenic microorganisms into the body, type of microorganism, or the area of ​​the body” , they explain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *