The head of the Court of Instruction 5 of Donostia, Silvia Villanueva Hormías, advances in the investigation of the discharge to the Arkaitzerreka regatta, facts known in September 2020 and which occurred in May of that year in the vicinity of the Zubieta complex that houses the incinerator and other facilities of the Gipuzkoa Waste Consortium (GHK). As reported by the GuraSOS platform, there are already 14 people charged, to which five companies are added. The list includes César Gimeno, director of GHK, who will have to appear before the instructor on September 16. After a controversy with the Ertzaintza, the Judicial Police in this case is the Civil Guard, specifically the Central Operational Unit for the Environment (UCOMA), dependent on Seprona, the ‘green’ unit of this body.
Environment opens a file for the discharge of ammonia in Gipuzkoa that will force the “restoration” of the lost fauna
According to GuraSos, the magistrate has agreed to allow the Civil Guard to analyze the possible presence of “chloroalkanes” a “carcinogenic component” in the spill, which caused the death of fish. Specifically, she plans to determine the “origin” of 0.855 milligrams per kilogram of this substance and other metals “appeared in the tissue of a dead eel collected at the scene and which was necropsied.” It is also requested that the “safety” and “corrective” measures be analyzed to guarantee the “non-dispersion of contaminants by the plant”.
GuraSOS explains that the Civil Guard has already issued an initial report for the reason that chloroalkanes are “extremely toxic” and that they can “generate cancer in humans and other serious damage to health and the environment”, in addition to the fact that it is a “banned” substance. The agents suggested that the “plastics, rubbers or paints that are usually managed at the end of their useful life as solid urban waste (MSW)” could be responsible and that these are “materials that the facility uses as fuel”. The complainant platform also wants the situation of the plant to be analyzed in “May 2020” given that it was “operating since February 2020 at 70-80% of its capacity” but “without having finished the works” and “without having carried out the necessary tests”, so it was also “without authorization for its effective start-up”. The Prosecutor’s Office is also present in the case. Judicial sources indicate that in the judicial declarations that took place in January, no representative of the public ministry was present, although, in March, it did issue a report already signed by a specialist in the Environment and that addressed the edges of this investigation.
Regarding the accusations for possible ecological crimes, GuraSOS highlights the weight of Gimeno and his closeness to the deputy for the Environment, the socialist José Ignacio Asensio. They point out that he was already a high position with the socialists in the Basque Government between 2009 and 2012, specifically as vice president of the ETS company (Eusko Trenbide Sarea, which is the railway infrastructure manager). Before, between 1998 and 2007, he was a director of the Campezo company. The platform denounces the “revolving door” that this position meant for him, since his old company was the “awardee” of sections of the new high-speed ‘Y Basque’ in Gipuzkoa. In one of them -they underline- there was an investigation of possible corruption. Sources from this organization, although they assess “positively” the progress in the case, will file an appeal with the Provincial Court of Gipuzkoa so that some petitions not accepted by the instructor at this stage of the summary are admitted.
At the time, as a result of a response sent to Parliament at the request of PP+Cs by the Minister for Economic Development, Sustainability and the Environment, Arantxa Tapia, it was also reported that the Basque Water Agency (URA) had initiated a sanction file against GHK for some facts that will force it to “restore” the fish community in the area. As indicated at the time, the spill occurred “during a loading operation of the ammonia storage tank (25% ammonia solution) from the tank truck.” “Specifically -Detailed Tapia- at the end of the usual loading of said storage tank, both the loading hose and the truck’s cistern were cleaned with drinking water. Said waters with traces of ammoniacal solution were emptied into the security tank of the storage tank, instead of being emptied into the tank itself, as indicated in the operating instructions”. Other irregularities caused “water contaminated with ammonia” to be “conducted directly to the Arkaitz regatta” and its effects were felt for four days.