Moviment Graffitti and Għaqda Storja u Kultura Birzebbuga have laid responsibility for the fish stench that has been plaguing Birzebbuga for two months directly on Environment Minister Miriam Dalli’s doorstep.
The fish stench has been afflicting residents of certain parts of Birzebbuga and its environs for weeks on end – since day one of the operations of a fish waste recycling plant set up in Hal Far by Malta’s aquaculture operators, which is treating and exporting waste from Malta’s fish farms.
The two groups on Friday said they have written to Environment Minister Miriam Dalli for the second time now calling for the factory’s operations to be suspended until the problem of the stench they insist the plant is creating is resolved once and for all.
Hundreds of Birzebbuga residents protested last Saturday over the state of affairs demanding the problem be tackled irrespective of the technical reasons behind the smell, which is deteriorating the quality of life of residents and workers of Birzebbuga, Benghajsa and Hal Far.
In their correspondence with the minister, the groups noted how the plant, run by Aquaculture Resources Ltd and headed by CEO Charlon Gouder, intends organising “controlled visits” to the factory next week. Gouder has been inviting people to ‘come smell for yourselves’ in Facebook posts since last Saturday’s protest.
“No visit organised by the company will reassure people because, as long as the smells persist, the problem will remain,” they said on Friday.
“If someone tries to imply that the strong smells of dead fish, which started right when the tuna factory started operating over two months ago, are not actually a result of this factory, they would just be insulting the intelligence of the people.”
About Gouder’s claims being made on Facebook that journalists from The Times and MaltaToday visited the plant and reported an absence of the stench residents have been complaining about, they observed how, “It is not the task of the residents, the organisations or of journalists to discover and address the causes behind the stench being emitted by the factory.
“This is only a task for the company and the authorities concerned.”
Calling for the immediate suspension of the plant’s operations, they said, “Residents and workers, however, have a right to not be made to suffer from the stench until a solution is found.”
The organisations warned that, should the authorities falling under Dalli’s ministry fail to suspend the company’s operations until the stench is stopped, “the political responsibility must necessarily be borne by the minister and by all those who have allowed this unsustainable situation to continue for too long.”
Miriam Dalli contests the Fifth Electoral District, which includes Birzebbuga.
The facility is being run by Aquaculture Resources Ltd, which is made up of Malta’s main players in the fish farming industry and counts among its shareholders: Charles Azzopardi (Azzopardi Fisheries), Joseph Caruana (Fish and Fish Ltd) and Saviour Ellul (MFF Limited).
Charlon Gouder is the company’s director. Gouder, Minister Dalli’s former colleague in the Super ONE newsroom, had previously worked for former environment minister Jose Herrera, who held the fish farming industry under his ministerial portfolio.
Gouder has insisted with The Shift, that “There have been several inspections by the Environmental Resources Authority. All the necessary investment has taken place to treat both air and wastewater before discharge back into the environment/water network.”
The locality was also recently flooded with fish remains after a sewage overflow from the processing plant, which is disposing of its waste into the sewage system, and which created a pungent stench in the middle of the town.