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Popular dive spot flooded by sewage... again

Divers at Xatt l-Aħmar forced out of the water

Sewage flowing at Xatt l-Aħmar.

Sewage flowing at Xatt l-Aħmar.

Updated at 12.35pm: Adds WSC's reply

Divers at ix-Xatt l-Aħmar were forced out of the water as overflowing sewage once again took over the popular Gozo diving and swimming spot.

Diving instructor Tom Steiner told the Times of Malta he had been leading a group at ix-Xatt l-Aħmar on Saturday when sewage began flowing into the sea, after workers reportedly opened a trench to clear a blocked drain.

“This isn’t just about divers: it’s about the health of everyone who swims there, including children,” Mr Steiner said.

“If work like this has to be done, the least they can do is close the area first. We can understand there are problems, but they have to be fixed properly. This would be like me taking my rubbish and throwing it into the sea.”

If work like this has to be done, the least they can do is close the area first

The Water Services Corporation did not respond to questions on Tuesday on the works and any remedial action which may have been taken but it replied followed publication of the article (see WSC's reply below).

The incident is the latest in a long series of sewage problems at ix-Xatt  l-Aħmar and nearby Ras il-Ħobż dating back years.

Read: Action needed about sewage overflow at Xatt l-Aħmar, PD insists

Just a few weeks ago, the Times of Malta reported similar issues, which the authorities attributed to overflows from a nearby pumping station caused by a buildup of non-domestic waste. Għajnsielem deputy mayor Kevin Cauchi said at the time that he had been reporting the case for years to no avail. “It is unacceptable that year after year no one comes up with a solution,” he said.

At Ras il-Ħobż, which hosts a sewage treatment plant and where underwater discharges have been reported since at least 2013, the authorities have taken steps towards addressing the issue, with a call earlier this year for offers to tackle damage in the undersea pipeline.

The end part of the pipeline, which extends 140 metres from the shore and down to a maximum depth of 80 metres, had been completely blocked over the years.

The WSC said that the damage had been caused by “improper use of the urban sewer system”, which was impairing the capacity of both the network and the treatment plants.

WSC's reply

Vegetables and solidified fats reflecting improper use of the drainage system.Vegetables and solidified fats reflecting improper use of the drainage system.

The WSC said it understood and shared the frustration of the diving sector.

The sewage system was extremely sensitive and prone to damage, and it was very important that only human toilet waste and degradable toilet paper were discharged in the system.

Any other material caused blockages and other damages that were not easily detectable until it was too late – sewage overflows.

Referring to the incident, the corporation said its employees had been sent on the spot immediately for the required repairs.

"Therefore, it is confirmed that the overflow was not planned or induced by WSC but the result of damages to the system that were immediately repaired. Most often than not such damages are caused through illegal discharges.

The corporation also sent pictures which, it said, were a clear example of improper use over the last days. In such eventualities, the corporation took all possible action to safeguard its infrastructure and try to ensure that such cases did not recur, in full cooperation with other entities.

 

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