Since December 13, some small plastic balls of different colors, rather clear, begin to arrive, from the sea, to the Galician coasts. No province will be free of them. At that time, the word “pellet“had not yet transpired, but there was already calls to 112 warning of their presence in the sand. As of January 8, 2024, all the newspapers are talking about it and it has become a headache for Alfonso Ruedapresident of the Xunta de Galicia and candidate of the Popular Party (PP) for re-election, whom the opposition accuses of not having intervened quickly. But how, exactly, have events developed?
The first remains of these pellets (they are the material that usually serves as raw material to manufacture plastic products and usually have spherical shapes) arrived in Galicia. on December 13. Or, at least, the first calls to 112 from anonymous citizens to report this are dated that day. Then, some news also appears in Galician regional media. Even a few days before, the entity with an environmental profile Clean Noia He had already noticed the presence of bags floating in the water.
In a Twitter thread, Oscar PuenteMinister of Transport and Sustainable Mobility, insists that since December 13, The Xunta had to be aware of the spill, since the emergency service of 122 of Galicia is managed by the Xunta itself. However, the institution did not activate any action plan.
The spill into the sea had occurred on December 8, when “the merchat vessel Toconaowhile sailing in Portuguese waters, lost several containers that were part of its cargo, one of which contained plastic pelletswhich was notified to the Rescue Coordination Center (CSS) of Finisterre and subsequently to the Coastal Directorate and the Government Delegation“, as reported on January 4 by the Xunta through a statement on its website.
As of December 13, several environmental associations and anonymous citizens notify 112 of bags they leave “a white trail“, as published The voice of Galicia that same day the 13th. The next important date and, perhaps, the one that contains one of the keys to the scandal, is the 20th of the same month.
December 20: Maritime Rescue notifies the Xunta
It is an important date because it focuses on the great dispute between the Government of Pedro Sanchez and the Xunta of Alfonso Rueda. At an informative breakfast organized by Europa Press this Monday, Rueda insisted that the Government did not contact him until on January 3, that is, Wednesday of last week. “The first official communication from the central government, which is the one with knowledge, through Maritime Rescuethat a container has fallen off the coast of Portugal, is from January 3,” Rueda stated.
Members of the Executive, including the Minister of Transport, Óscar Puente, insist that there was prior communication, specifically, December 20.
According to the agency, Europa Pressthe Government Delegation corroborates this version and confirms that Maritime Rescue, dependent on the central Government, called the Galician Gardacostas servicedependent on the Xunta, to report the event on Wednesday, December 20 at 6:30 p.m.. Many days before, therefore, that January 3rd that Rueda speaks of.
January 5: the Xunta activates the emergency plan
On January 4, the maximum collaborationfacilitating the protocol with which to act and collect all the information on the work and costs assumed by these administrations so that later be transferred to the company“. It must be taken into account that the Environmental Responsibility Law obliges the companies causing a spill to take charge of the “remedial measures” prevention, avoidance and repair“. The Xunta itself reports that the company has opened itself to collaborating.
It is still notable, in another order of things, that Rueda dropped, on January 1, for Carnotaa town very close to Walls, one of the epicenters of the spill, to campaign for the Galician elections. Even though it had been more than two weeks since the balls had begun to arrive on the beaches, Rueda did not approach them to inquire about the volunteers’ work.
In any case, it is not until Friday, January 5, that the Xunta finally activates the emergency plan. More specifically, the Territorial Contingency Plan for Accidental Marine Pollution. Of course, he did it at his “level 1”, something that makes the performance of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO), which can only come into action once level 2 has been activated, something that Rueda rules out for the moment.
The Prosecutor’s Office comes into play
This Monday, January 8, the Specialized Environmental Unit of the State Attorney General’s Office has opened investigation proceedings into the spill, after monitoring the situation since January 4. In Asturias, where remains of the pellet are also reaching, the PLACAMPA (Territorial Contingency Plan for Accidental Marine Pollution of the Principality).
For the moment, Rueda has not spoken again, despite the fact that, as reported Public“part of the pellets dumped in Galicia have 30% of additives potentially toxic to humans”, which leads several biologists and experts to advise volunteers against carrying out sanitation work without proper protective material. He has also not spoken about the accusations of the main workers’ union of the Galician Television (TVG), which accuses the television management of hiding the importance of the case and dampening its dissemination among public opinion.