A huge plug of grease and filth of 1 kilometer in length and more than 1,000 tons of weight obstructs main sewage of Valencia, a collector five meters wide by 2.4 meters high. To get an idea of magnitude of problem, mass trapped in a dense mesh of wet wipes is 10 times greater than that which is wreaking havoc in San Sebastian and almost eight times greater than that detected in London, two cases which have had more impact in recent months. "I have never seen an obstruction of this magnitude," says Antonio Llopis, head of Water Cycle service at Valencia City Council, which has been working in department for 27 years.
The City Council has had to allocate a special item of 2.3 million euros and build a specific machine, equipped with pulleys, motors and rakes to combat mole. This was detected in February and it will take six more months of work to eliminate it. The cloaca plugonada "collects sewage of half Valencia and part of ditches of area," says Vicent Sarrià, councilman responsible for service. This explains that in first phase of work to undo amalgam are found many different types of solid elements: from a supermarket cart to head of a horse.
The jam is due to a network created by hygiene wipes. "This product has become fashionable in recent years and many people have become accustomed to throw m to toilet, as if it were a parallel, which is causing situations of this type in many cities," says Socialist mayor in final stretch of river Turia, next to one of entrances to collector that is being used to access plug. This extends, about ten feet underground, from vicinity of City of Arts and Sciences to neighborhood of Monteolivete.
Sarrià stresses that environmental crisis that was about to occur with discharge of fecal water into river and from this to sea has been avoided. To a large extent thanks to configuration of sewerage network of Valencia.
The norrn wastewater collector, affected, ends up in a large treatment plant - old Emarsa, scene of a rumored case of corruption. On same one runs anor, of similar size, designed to absorb rainwater coming from heavy rains that fall every year in Valencia, what is known as cold drop. This second conduit flows into last natural section of river Turia, located behind L'Àgora and L'Oceanogràfic, and ends at port of Valencia.
The blockage of its natural channel caused wastewater to rise to upper level, which remains dry most of year, through a series of windows that communicate m. Most of black water fell back to its collector after passing plug, thanks to a large opening hole of communication urgency for Consistency. The absence of heavy rainfall in recent months has prevented rain from dragging into river remains of dirt that remained attached to rainwater collector, which has already been cleaned.
For this task, Consistory used a German truck equipped with a "colossal vacuum", says Llopis, who was absorbing waste as small excavators pushed m pushed to his mouth. Although not easy to calculate, service chief calculates that total mass weighs more than 1,000 tons - without counting water that accumulates. 500 tons of filth have been removed since February.
The device manufactured by City Council will cut in coming months amalgam in manageable portions, 50 meters, to be able to extract it. Part of work has to be done, however, by hand by so-called "divers." "It is a very painful job, in a confined space, with gases, which requires autonomous breathing equipment and protection of special suits," says Llopis. Sarrià believes that solution is to make citizens aware that sewer network "is not a landfill". But he also believes that wet wipe manufacturers should do ir part, researching materials that will disintegrate quickly, as some have begun to do. "If y do not self-regulate," he adds, "Administrations must take action."