Divers plan to clean up the area around the broken sewage pipe. / sur

Divers report a mass of wet wipes and other toilet waste near historic shipwreck just off the coast of San Pedro

They are organising a clean-up day and calling on the authorities to do something to solve this problem, which often occurs when storms cause damage to sewage pipes

JOAQUINA DUEÑAS Marbella

It was Simon Bell, owner of the Simply Diving centre in Marbella, who raised the alarm. Once again, there has been a sewage spill in San Pedro, near a shipwreck which is very popular with divers. “There is a sewage pipe just 200 metres away from the beach and, several times a year, it breaks,” he says. He has made contact with an independent NGO called Equilibrio Marina which works to restore marine ecosystems, and they are organising a day of underwater cleaning.

Bell is disturbed by what he has seen. “The area smells awful and the water is cloudy. Away from there it is crystal clear,” he says. This situation occurs quite often when there are storms or heavy rain.

“The ship sank about 300 years ago and it has become a famous tourist attraction, but thousands of women’s sanitary products and other toilet waste are collecting around it,” he told SUR in English. The 60-metre-long vessel is believed to have sunk during the Spanish War of Succession, between 1701 and 1713. As it is only 200 metres from the shore it is close to the surface and its accessibility makes it very popular with divers. Unfortunately, it is also only 15 metres away from the sewage pipe.

Wet wipes

Just as the ship’s structure has generated a marine ecosystem which is home to conger eels, bream and groupers, it also means that thousands of wet wipes collect around it, explains Fernando García Alarcón, the president of Equilibrio Marino, who will be in charge of organising the clean-up operation in the next few weeks if the weather allows.

This is not the first time a clean-up has had to be carried out in this area. Two years ago about 30 divers, including volunteers, went down with nets and equipment and removed 300 kilos of wet wipes from the seabed.

Equilibrio Marino and divers are calling on the Acosol water company to take action to solve this problem. García Alarcón also says people should be more responsible. “It seems incredible that nowadays so many haven’t realised that we can’t throw wet wipes down the lavatory,” he says. “It shouldn’t be used as a waste paper bin”.

The latest incident is thought to have been caused by a major break in the pipe during the storm in November. Sources at Acosol say they repaired it as fast as they could but, even so, when something like this happens there are always going to be consequences. The fact that the sewage pipes on the Costa del Sol run along the beaches means that urgent repairs are needed after every storm.