The end is finally in sight. After decades during which time raw sewage has been flowing into the Guadalhorce river, urgent action is being taken to resolve this problem in the province once and for all.
At the moment ten million euros have been allocated in the Andalusian budget for 2020 so that these works can begin. The sewage plant, which will be known as the Malaga Norte, will treat the waste from the other two towns who are still disposing of it into the river (Alhaurín el Grande and Cártama) and also that of Alhaurín de la Torre, which is currently dealt with by the plant on the Guadahorce industrial estate in Malaga. That plant has been working at its limit for years because it also treats all the waste from the Torremolinos area.
The year 2022, a decade after the initial plans were drawn up, is the target date for the Guadalhorce to stop being used as a dump for raw sewage from the area. Discussions are under way between the Junta de Andalucía's ministry of Sustainable Development and councils in the Guadalhorce area to define the characteristics of the new infrastructure and decide on the way in which the town halls will handle its management and maintenance . The first meeting was held two weeks ago, at the request of the regional government's Water Infrastructure department.
With regard to the first point, two years ago all the administrations involved agreed that it should be built in Malaga city, (north of the airport and near the boundary with Alhaurín de la Torre) and that it would have the capacity to treat 70,000 cubic metres a day, the equivalent of the waste produced by a population of 280,000 inhabitants. As a reference, this is just under half the capacity of the Guadalhorce plant (160,000 m3).
Now two matters have to be decided before the contract to draw up the plans can be put to tender. The first is to finish the viability study with a regard to modifying the initial plans and equipping the plant with a tertiary filtering system. A third filter would make it possible to use the recycled water for irrigation.
Also on the table is whether the sewage plant should treat the sludge itself, or whether, as Malaga council believes, this should be diverted to the Guadalhorce plant which is run by the Emasa municipal water company. This would only involve building seven kilometres of pipes, but the mayors of other municipalities are not convinced. Their doubts are not about the works as such, but about the fact that they would have to depend on the provincial capital to complete the treatment cycle.
With regard to managing the facilities in the future, the Junta de Andalucía has also made it clear that before the project goes ahead, the town halls should make a written commitment to pay for it to be put into operation and to maintain it once it is up and running. Emasa has offered to manage the plant in exchange for a fee from the councils, but another proposal is to create a special entity to manage it. In an attempt to speed the process up and not have any more delays, the Junta has told the councils that it will provide them with a draft agreement in the next few weeks.
Once these questions have been resolved and the design for the plant has been definitively agreed, the Water Infrastructure department will put the contract to tender with the idea that the plans could be completed by mid-2020, and then contract the works so the plant will be ready in 2022. Time is getting on.