Western Beach pieceA QUESTION by a GSD MP about the poor water quality at Western Beach sparked controversy with Chief Minister Picardo accusing him of ‘playing into Spanish hands’.

The row was preceded by a discussion about when a contract for the Urban Waste treatment plant project would go ahead.

It was then sparked by GSD MP Trevor Hammond’s question: “Bearing in mind the continued poor water quality at western beach, and the government’s 2011 manifesto to act immediately to ensure the sewage problem is dealt with, what activity has taken place since 2011, to rectify the situation?”

In response, Environment Minister Dr. John Cortes said that since the present government entered into office, the beach has become the most frequently monitored in Gibraltar with numerous samples taken from it weekly.

He continued by referring to the ‘Spanish-induced’ problem of sewage contamination coming from La Linea.

He stated that the European commission publicly accepted that the source of the pollution lies in Spain.

However Mr Hammond replied: “Would the minister agree with me that while we continue to pump our own raw sewage into the sea at Europa Point, our case for Western Beach and the Spaniards effectively doing the same is severely weakened in anybody’s eyes?”

This instigated an intervention from Chief Minister Picardo, who said: “I have not heard a question which is more against the public interest of Gibraltar put by a member of the opposition in this house since I was elected to it in 2003.”

He informed the house that the pollution issue was not a new problem, and that dumping sewage into a straight which does not produce pollution to nearby beaches like Little Bay or Sandy Bay and therefore to any Spanish beaches that would be further away can be compared with an area which is close to where sewage is deposited by Spain.

“It is absolutely true that ‘to reason is not treason’, so if somebody gets up and reasons out an argument which it is important for a community to understand, then that is not treachery,” said Picardo.

“But to get up here and to make an argument as illogically flawed as the one the honourable gentleman has made is really not to reason, it is just to get up and made a headline in a way that does Gibraltar a massive disservice.”

Hammond said it was ‘utterly inexcusable that we should continue to be pumping raw sewage into Europa whether it affects a beach or not’.

He questioned whether the government was any closer to a solution to the problem than in 2011 when it was elected and had the issue in its manifesto.

But Picardo responded by saying if Hammond thinks there is an issue that damages Gibraltar’s case against Spain he it should be discussed outside of the ‘glare of publicity’.

The manifesto Hammond referred to stated: “We will develop a sewage treatment plant, the absence of which has allowed La Linea to defend its own sewage landing at Western Beach by saying we also put our sewage into the sea.”