the antecedent of Zaldibar that swept “environmentalist” consciences

Shortly before ten o'clock in the morning of September 10, 1996, the people of Coruña were overwhelmed by a loud rumble followed by a penetrating rotten stench that enveloped the city of the Tower of Hercules for months. A mountain of San Pedro that grew day by day with kilos of garbage collapsed. The thousands of tons of shit, with forgiveness, reached the sea taking a town, dozens of cars and boats, the islet of San Pedro, the port of o Portiño, and, worst of all, Joaquín Serantes, a Corunna from whom the body was never found.

To the journalist Elvira Álvarez, then editor in chief of the Cope chain in Coruña, and one of the first people to arrive, what was most recorded was the smell that lasted for weeks: “People went with scarves covering their nose soaked in cologne, the stench so pervasive that it enveloped us was indescribable on the radio. ”

The collapse was a story announced because since the 70s in a trough at the bottom of which was the town of O Portiño hundreds of trucks poured the waste of the city's neighbors and the 400,000 every day more than they lived then in the metropolitan area of ​​the Herculean capital.

The layers of crap without any compaction intermingled with soil and formed, without anyone taking action on the matter, a mountain of 200,000 tons that exceeded the height of Mount San Pedro itself.

The City Council was aware of the situation but looked a little profile. About four years earlier he had proposed to allocate a game to build a retaining wall in the area, something quite insufficient, and had even requested aid from Europe for the closure of the Bens landfill.

Shortly before the collapse of waste, a fire in the accumulated crap destabilized the land and accelerated a landslide that was almost imminent. The journalists who then recounted what happened daily in the most elite city of Galicia told the whole world a news that opened European television newss. There were almost no mobiles, social networks nor did they exist, the photographers and cameras were the transmitters of the images of shame: a city that boasted cosmopolitan and had never worried about its "shit".

Calm day

The day the waste decided to fall all over the hillside was a day that became quiet in Coruña, as far as news is concerned. "It was a day that there was nothing on the news agenda. I was having coffee at a bar in the Plaza de Lugo with a journalist from the Efe Agency and saying there was nothing to tell that day. Suddenly he was called by his wife, who worked in the Self, and told him that he was going to Portiño because there was a collapse. We went too. The Local Police did not let us pass in a roundabout, we got out of the car and noticed the horrible stench, we walked and we found the bleak panorama ”, qualifies the editor-in-chief of Cope to LA RAZÓN.

The then Minister of Environment, Isabel Tocino of the PP, after the event wanted to make it clear that the responsibility was of the City Council, governed by the socialist Paco Vázquez. "It was seen coming," he said in an appearance with the president of the Xunta, Manuel Fraga, and refused to declare Bens as a catastrophic zone.

All politicians "walked" along the hillside of Monte de San Pedro to give their version of events and offer solutions. Journalists also attended these staging. The smell of rotten became everyday even in the most remote places of the city. Not even the best masks that are now searched to fight the coronavirus were able to remove the penetrating “perfume” from the nose of the Coruña.

For Álvarez, one of the shocking things was seeing the beach full of debris that fell after a few weeks. “The beach of Portiño It was full of plastics of what had fallen, it was an image that I will never forget"

The first days and weeks the efforts focused on finding the body of Joaquín Serantes, the only one missing, who ultimately was not one of the 300 residents of the town, but went to the port daily to sit and read the newspaper and talk to the fishermen, that day he decided to wash his car. Serantes, a National Radio worker, was retired. Thousands of the approximately 200,000 tons of garbage were removed and it was impossible to find human remains, only of some animals that would surely already be among the waste. Serantes' family and friends they lamented the facts and blamed the consistory that their brother and husband had died "buried in shit."

As a measure of urgency, garbage containment work was carried out to stop it from falling into the sea, which, together with the heavy compensation to those affected, entailed high expenses for the City Council.

It was the biggest environmental disaster of the pro-environmental era. Until the mythical Francisco Vázquez became the green current and even with Greenpeace, he looked for ecological formulas to treat waste. It was not wanted to point to the Plan of the Xunta to incinerate and devised a sealing system through the creation of biogas that was used for the production of energy in a cogeneration plant in Nostián.

Green lung

An investment of 18 million euros transformed the largest landfill in Galicia into a 600,000 square meter green park that became the lung of the city more northwest of the Peninsula. The thousands of tons of buried dirt breathe through a hundred degassing wells where they expel the methane produced by the fermentation of garbage.

An ecological disaster that was the turning point to raise awareness about the most sustainable waste treatment, but of which despite having happened 23 years ago other locations, such as Zaldibar, learned nothing and they are now in the same situation.


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