After being paralysed for a decade the green light has finally been given to two important sewage plant projects in Malaga province, which will mean that the river which flows through the Guadalhorce region will no longer be a type of sink into which the untreated sewage generated by 100,000 inhabitants of the area is poured.
Despite the long delays and institutional wrangling, it is a very positive sign that there is finally some progress on the Bajo Guadalhorce plant (which will serve Coín, Pizarra and Álora), and that agreement has also been reached with town halls so that the wastewater from Alhaurín el Grande and Cártama will be treated at a new plant which will serve the metropolitan area. This will also ease the pressure on the one in Malaga, which is close to its limit because it has to deal with the waste from Alhaurín de la Torre and Torremolinos as well as the city.
By volume this plant, which is known as Malaga-Norte, is the largest outstanding project of this type in the province. It was planned over 10 years ago and the initial project was drawn up in 2012, but it has been delayed for two reasons: the site was included in the Guadalhorce flood risk area, and the regional government’s environmental ministry decided to reduce its initial capacity, to 100,000 cubic metres, and also its cost.
Because the local councils which would be affected were unhappy, especially Malaga, which said it was not going to cede land for an infrastructure which couldn’t be used, a process of negotiation began, firstly bilateral and then with the four other councils.
Finally, agreement was reached on the basic questions: this will be a high capacity plant, able to treat 70,000 cubic metres of waste a day in the initial phase, and that will be increased in the future; the 74 million euro cost of the plant and pipelines will be financed from the extra charge which everyone in Andalucía has been paying as part of their water bills since 2011; and the plant will be located on the initial site to the north of the airport, but a series of measures will be put into effect to protect it if the river floods. Should that not prove viable, then plan ‘B’ will be put into effect - the existing plant next to the Guadalhorce industrial estate will be enlarged. The work on the Malaga-Norte plant should begin next year, but even the most optimistic estimates indicate that it will be not completed before the end 2021.
The Bajo Guadalhorce plant will be finished much earlier. Initial earth moving works have already begun and it is expected to be in operation by mid-2018.
“This is really fantastic, because we have been waiting for so many years,” said Félix Lozano, the mayor of Pizarra, when he heard the news. In fact, he was so excited that he headed straight to the site to see it for himself.