A 2018 protest against discharges into the bay. | Jaume Morey


The Guardia Civil's Seprona division, responsible for investigating potential crimes related to the environment, has delivered a damning report to the Palma court of instruction that is considering allegations of "irregular discharges" from treatment plants into the bay of Palma.

The report analyses the impact of discharges on the seabed and on posidonia sea grass meadows as well as disciplinary proceedings for these. The conclusion is one of institutional passivity.

The Seprona investigation has involved dives to assess damage caused by untreated discharges from plants operated by the Palma municipal services agency, Emaya. Between 1989 and 2012, there was an estimated reduction of 205 hectares in the posidonia meadows in the western section of the bay, which is where the Torrent Gros outfall is located.

This impact continued. Dives by members of the Guardia Civil's subaquatic unit in 2019 established that there had been "significant degradation of the seabed, especially around the spills' infrastructure". For example, at a depth of fifteen metres there was only an accumulation of dead plants.

Emaya's records indicate that there were more than a thousand untreated discharges between 2003 and 2014 and a further 220 episodes from 2014 to 2018. These generated the risk "of serious damage to the quality of the water and to the health of bathers".

With regard to possible disciplinary proceedings as a consequence of spills of waste water in the western part of the bay, Seprona observes that there is no record of any having been initiated. The regional environment ministry's directorate for territorial organisation started "no disciplinary proceedings" against Emaya for spills into the sea. The report adds that this directorate sought cooperation with Emaya to find solutions to incidents and deficits in documentation in order to "legalise the discharge into sea by the Torrent Gros outfall".

The environment ministry argues that the objective has been to improve sanitation and the good condition of the marine environment instead of increasing the conflict between administrations and initiating sanctioning procedures.

The report nevertheless goes on to state that the directorate was "perfectly aware that insufficiently treated waste water discharges cause serious damage to posidonia", which is now protected under regional legislation. Seprona also points to "discrimination" on behalf of the environment ministry. While Emaya spills were not punished, the ministry acted in the cases of places in protected natural areas or which were part of the Red Natura 2000 (nature network).