The Generalitat of Catalonia it will have to spend up to 159 million euros to clean and restore the old clay quarry occupied by a gigantic illegal dump with which Jordi Pujol Ferrusola made a hit of 5.3 million euros at the beginning of the last decade, according to the documents consulted by EL PAÍS. The installation, called Vacamorta and located in Cruïlles, in the tourist Baix Empordà (Girona) covers an area of 15.4 hectares and in some areas the waste reaches 70 meters deep. An emptying of these dimensions – mandated by a final judgment of the Supreme Court of 2014 – will force the removal of 2.9 million waste and contaminated lands. For this, 143,000 truck trips will be necessary – at a rate of one every five minutes for five years -, according to the preliminary draft commissioned by the Generalitat.
The destination of the waste is not even clear, since the volume to be moved would take the capacity limit to the three existing landfills in Catalonia and it may be necessary to open a new one. Sludge from sewage treatment plants and treatment plants (49% of the total), industrial waste (27%) and remains of works (13%) are the most abundant waste.
There is no precedent for such a serious operation in Spain. Cleaning the muds of the Aznalcóllar catastrophe, for example, cost the Junta de Andalucía barely 90 million euros. In relation to the population of Catalonia (7.5 million), the emptying of Vacamorta will cost public funds of around 20 euros per capita.
The preliminary draft studies five alternatives, although only two of them would be feasible today – and not without problems – with the means of the Generalitat, taking into account that the Catalan government is already failing the two years that the Supreme set to empty the installation. These two options represent the departure of Vacamorta from 120 trucks per day loaded with 20 tons of waste, in 250 annual work days of 10 hours. At this rate, 4 years and 10 months would be necessary.
The environmental impact study that accompanies the draft Vacamorta emptying reveals the great repercussions for the environment that the operation will have. The study estimates that the works will release the atmosphere "between 180,000 and 350,000 cubic meters of biogas", formed in "46% by methane", causing the greenhouse effect. It also highlights that the transfer of waste will consume up to 25.7 million liters of diesel and warns about the "strong odors" that the waste will cause "in the area and the towns near the route of the trucks".
The conclusion of the report is that the way to reduce the impact to the environment as much as possible would be to seal the waste and leave it where it is.
Alternative 1A, with a cost of 159.5 million euros, plans to take all the waste to the landfill of Riba-roja d'Ebre (Tarragona), a facility about to be released and located literally on the other side of Catalonia ( 320 kilometers). This option, in addition, would reduce the useful life of the new dump from 24 to only six years, since Vacamorta waste would fill almost two thirds of its capacity.
Option 1B, on the other hand, divides the Vacamorta waste between three landfills: Riba-roja, Tivissa (275 kilometers, also in Tarragona) and Hostalets de Pierola (157 kilometers, in Barcelona). This option, budgeted at 146.8 million euros, would collapse in a short time -15 months and three years, respectively- the last two, which would also block its use for local industries.
Faced with this situation, the preliminary draft is based on the 1C plan, which involves the creation of a new landfill closer to Cruïlles -in a radius of 60 to 80 kilometers-. This option, however, has two problems that question its viability. The first, admits the own project, is that it would delay five years Vacamorta emptying-time necessary to process and build the landfill, which hits the deadlines set by the Supreme. To this we must add the difficulty of agreeing in the current political situation in Catalonia a location that does not meet with strong social opposition. This option would be the cheapest -81 million-although the estimate does not include the costs of the new landfill.
Finally, the preliminary draft studies two other options, the so-called 2A and 2B, which imply a radical change. In both cases, the technology called "landfill mining" is applied: process the waste at source to obtain all the materials, such as metals, to which a new use can be given. This system, however, has the problem that it is very slow – it would take 37 years to process all the waste – something that clashes with the ruling of the Supreme Court and the demands of the entities that have managed to close Vacamorta in the courts, such as the Alternative Platform to the Cruïlles Landfill (PAAC).
Despite the enormous economic and environmental costs of the plan, the Generalitat does not even foresee cleaning up the landfill in its entirety. The Catalan Government interprets that the Supreme Court's decision only obliges it to remove the waste deposited as of 2003. Once the entire operation was completed, there would still be more than 330,000 tons in the area corresponding to the materials accumulated between 2000 and 2003, which would be sealed and covered with earth.
This interpretation is rejected by the PAAC, the environmental organization CEPA and the City Council of Cruïlles, which prepare joint allegations to the preliminary draft to demand from the Catalan Government the total emptying of Vacamorta. The draft of the emptying is still in the public exhibition phase.
The Vacamorta landfill is one of the businesses investigated by the National Court in the Pujol case. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor considers that Jordi Pujol Ferrusola -as he already did with another landfill located in Tivissa (Tarragona) – used the influences he had in the Generalitat and in Convergència (CDC) to carry out a project that has always come before the courts. been declared illegal. The first time was in July 2002, only two years after its opening and following a recourse presented by the Alternative Platform to the Cruïlles Landfill.
A Girona court annulled the activity license granted in 2000 by the Generalitat and declared the installation illegal. Among other reasons, for being only 400 meters from an urbanization. The sentence, confirmed by the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC), ordered the closure of the landfill in February 2003. The closure, however, hardly lasted a month and a half. The Generalitat, relying on a legislative change, again granted the environmental authorization to the landfill in April of that year. The PAAC again resorted to the courts and in 2006 the TSJC again gave the reason.
At that time, Pujol Ferrusola no longer owned the landfill. Between 2003 and 2004, he and his two local partners had sold the 80% business to Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC) for 13.2 million euros. Hidden in a long chain of instrumental societies that ended on the Isle of Man – a known tax haven – and after investing 277,000, Pujol Ferrusola entered with the sale of the landfill 5.5 million euros, as EL PAÍS uncovered two years ago and has confirmed a recent report from the Tax Agency.
FCC managed the landfill since then and until 2014, when the Generalitat ordered its closure following the final ruling of the Supreme Court, which confirmed that of the TSJC of 2006.