March 5, 2021

a year later there are 140,000 cubic meters of waste left to look for Joaquín


It rains heavily on the mountain and gusts of wind make movement difficult in a terrain already full of mud and puddles that look like swimming pools. Boots are essential for walking. Low clouds complicate visibility. The sky is leaden. Just a year ago, at this point in the Basque geography where it is difficult to know where Gipuzkoa begins and where Bizkaia ends, 800,000 cubic meters of waste fell down the slope. Workers Alberto Sololuze and Joaquín Beltrán were buried in the Zaldibar landfill. The remains of the first appeared in August and a special operation – which only stopped for Christmas and a day in September when it rained more than usual – continues on the ground in the hope of finding Beltrán, who a few days before alerted the company manager of the facilities, Verter Recycling, that the stability of the landfill was in danger. Now the businessmen are accused of “reckless homicide” and have already had to post bail. From the scene of the events, the Basque Councilors for Safety and Environment, Josu Erkoreka and Arantxa Tapia, have shown the “firm hope” that between now and April there may be positive results in a specific area of ​​the gigantic language of garbage that has already been identified.

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On a road enabled to facilitate the passage of machinery, a pinkish landmark is visible on the left side of the climb. Indicates the last point where Beltrán was seen before the avalanche. It was barely two or three minutes before the collapse. From October until now, two areas called B1A and B4S have been combed without success. Now the B1B area will be inspected, up the mountain and not down the reference point. It is suspected that Beltrán, detected the avalanche, went up to alert his partner Sololuze. It is the area of ​​the old truck wash. Before accessing that point, you must first clear 140,000 cubic meters. This area would be accessed in March and the place would be screened inch by inch.

Sei is one of the Ertzaintza agents who will do that job. Sei is a dog in the canine unit and this Saturday she is not separated from her guide and partner. In addition, rescue teams, from the Mobile Brigade, the Scientific Police and other units work in the mountains. Nor do the Caterpillar of the contracted construction company stop. In 12 months, 525,000 cubic meters of waste have been excavated, of which 372,038 have been “raked” to search for the remains of the disappeared. Beltrán’s family implores that the search not be concluded if the body has not been found first. Erkoreka, asked by the journalists, has assured that there is “provision” and a “work plan.” But no one escapes that the saying of the needle in the haystack can be adjusted to the immensity of Zaldibar. And that now is an area organized into sectors and in which areas already worked are being cleaned and sealed. “When we arrived on the first day it looked like the moon,” Sei’s guide ironizes behind a white jumpsuit that reveals the red jumpsuit of his uniform.

Erkoreka has said that, in December, what was the Verter Recycling wardrobe was unearthed. There were numerous articles of clothing and objects, but none were from Beltran. “The intervention has been a challenge from a technical point of view. The Administration has not spared in human, technical or material resources ”, the councilors Erkoreka and Tapia have assured. His press conference was very particular, as the wind knocked down a light bulb, broke the lecterns and dropped a map of the area several times. The two tents installed have endured. In 2020, the Government took a week to send the Lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullu, or some counselor.

On the causes of the collapse, Tapia did not want to give details about the report from the Universities of Cantabria and Barcelona that has already been received. He has suggested that an explanation might be found in the way the spillway vessel was built, on the hillside. But he has not offered more data, claiming that they have put that opinion in the hands of the judicial investigation. There are two open cases, one for an alleged reckless homicide and the second for the environmental damage caused in the area. The Government is clear that the management company is responsible for damage to the soil and water. Regarding the air quality in the region – a year ago dioxins and toxic furans were emitted into the atmosphere -, the Executive considers the crisis over and considers the results of the measurements “good”, “comparable to ranges of measured concentrations in other urban areas ”.

In Zaldibar, two tanks have already been built to bag the fallen waste. Tapia has emphasized that it is not a new landfill in the same place. When the works are finished, everything will be sealed. With this event and the closure of another facility in Mutiloa, also in February 2020, the Basque Country lost a capacity of 850,000 cubic meters for the storage of industrial waste. 46,000 tons had to be sent to Cantabria and another 34,000 to La Rioja. Tapia wanted to clarify that “90%” has been distributed in other centers in the Basque Country and that many companies are “valuing” and generating fewer surpluses.

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