Bariloche residents call for a new sewage waste plant

Photo: Tasha Filomeno y Nahuel AlonsoPhoto: Tasha Filomeno y Nahuel Alonso
By Clara Ribera
Bariloche’s local community has been denouncing for six years now that the treatment plant that processes the sewage waste in the city is insufficient after the rapid expansion of this Argentine Patagonian lakeside resort town in recent years.
The problem has raised tmedia interest after a protest last week, when 2,000 residents dressed in brown and marched in Bariloche denouncing the stain in Lake Nahuel Huapi. Sometimes the sanitation system, managed by Cooperativa Eléctrica de Bariloche (CEB), is not enough for the amount of waste the city creates. And when the plant is overwhelmed, the human sewage is dumped in the lake without any treatment.
The treatment plant was built 20 years ago, and at the time it was able to process the waste produced in the area. “From that moment up until now, the city has had explosive growth,” remarks Nicolás Suarez, a representative of Mancha por el Lago (Stained for the Lake in English), which organized the protest. “In 20 years, the government has not paid one peso to improve the facilities to meet our city’s needs,” he added. The city in 2001 had 93,000 residents, today the year round population is estimated at more than 120,000.
“The people’s ombudsman presented, on our behalf, a lawsuit almost six years ago. Unfortunately, the justice system here is not very fast,” explains a concerned Ana Wiemar, secretary for local environmental group Asociación Civil para la Protección del Medioambiente Árbol a Pie (Civil Association for Environmental Protection). “The lake is not polluted yet, but we’re concerned because we are drinking water from the lake, we are using it for recreational activities, and it is the beginning of an important river watershed.”
According to Suárez, it will take at least until the end of the year for the government’s public works department to issue a public bidding for a new plant project, making the process, which started several years ago, even longer.
For now, Mancha por el Lago is planning to organize a second protest to make the conflict even more visible and put pressure on the public institutions involved. 
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