The elimination of sludge from the Mar Menor will begin with a pilot experience in Estrella de Mar.

Presentation of the Mar Menor sludge disposal project

The consultancy firm contracted by Cartagena City Council to study the removal of mud from the beaches of the southern Mar Menor – Estrella de Mar, Los Urrutias, Los Nietos and Punta Brava – has already presented a basic project which proposes the environmental recovery of these bathing areas in six phases which will be spread over eight months and are valued at one million euros.

The first actions will be two pilot projects on the beach of Estrella de Mar in which two methods of beach recovery will be tested, as reported this Tuesday, August 1, the mayor, Noelia Arroyo, who appeared before the press, along with the acting councillor for the Environment, Mar Menor, Universities and Research, Juan María Vázquez, whose department has funded the drafting of the project; and the biologist and head of the department of environmental planning of the City Council of Cartagena, Antonio Sansano.

The work of the company, the joint venture formed by the environmental consultancy Tecnoambiente and the engineering firm MC Valnera, also includes an Environmental Impact Study which has already been sent to the Coastal Demarcation for its report.

In the ten areas proposed, the application of up to twelve different procedures has been assessed, from manual removal to the use of the ‘watermaster’, and the methodology considered most effective and with the least impact on the environment has been proposed for each case.

Arroyo explained that the next steps are, firstly, to obtain permission to carry out the pilot test. “We estimate that this test will cost us around 70,000 euros, which we are already looking for so that we can carry it out this winter, which is the time of year when the risk of impact on the environment is reduced to a minimum,” he said.

“At the same time, we will manage the approval of the environmental impact study, which is a longer process”, according to Arroyo, who explained that, once approved, the execution of the sludge removal project will be put out to tender, which “is valued at just over 1 million euros”.

The mayoress informed that she will approach the Ministry of Ecological Transition to finance this operation, as the removal of dry and sludge “forms part of the priority objectives set by the ministry itself in the Plan for the Protection of the Coastal Edge”.

Vázquez, for his part, has pointed out that this project of elimination of all is a clear example of “collaboration between administrations”. In this case, between Cartagena City Council and the regional government. And that this work part of a “scientific study, conducted with a comprehensive prior work,” has added.

Arroyo, on the other hand, has explained that the proposal sets out eight months of work in six phases are designed as a chain of learning. In order to “advance safely and not make mistakes”, actions will be carried out consecutively to confirm that the objectives are met and Estrella de Mar will be the setting for the pilot sludge removal tests that will be applied to the beaches of Cartagena.

In one area of the beach, recovery will be tested by covering it with sand, while in another, a suction and washing system will be applied to separate the sludge and sand.

The study of the ten areas proposed by the municipal technicians has shown that the surface area occupied by sludge has been reduced overall by 40% between the years 21 and 22, from almost 20,000 m2 to 12,000 m2. The technicians associate this evolution with the fact that the intensive work of algae removal has allowed the sea dynamics to act more effectively.

In fact, of the ten areas initially included in the plans, three have been eliminated for the purposes of action, although they will remain under observation throughout the process. On the other hand, greater accumulations have been observed in two of the points studied.

The City Council recalled that the areas of sludge accumulation not only affect the safety of bathing, but can also generate local episodes of anoxia that affect the quality of the water, flora and fauna.

The Mar Menor councillor also indicated at the hearing that “brigades of up to 100 people are still working to remove biomass on the beaches of the Mar Menor, so that the beaches are ready, and this biomass does not turn into sludge”.

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