The relocation of an oil tank cleaning facility to Marsa would be to the detriment of Marsa residents.
Many people have already raised their concerns over the move from Fort Ricasoli, including in protests held in the locality, and have called for the plans to scrapped. However, politicians are not listening to the people.
Ahead of the potential move, here are nine reasons this would be harmful for everyone living in Marsa and its vicinity.
1. Toxic gases will be released throughout the town.
In the oil tank cleaning process, toxic gases can be released into the atmosphere which will lead to the formation of smog or toxic fog. Marsa is situated in a valley at the end of Wied il-Kbir which makes its way into the Grand Harbour. This position creates an inversion of temperature when the gases are prevented from escaping into the atmosphere and become concentrated within the valley or on lower ground.
Having such an accumulation of toxic gases creates a health hazard for the local inhabitants. They also affect the local microclimate.
2. And the town will become hotter than ever.
Marsa has long been considered a ‘Heat Island’ where the local temperature is slightly higher than the surrounding areas.
This heat island effect was felt when the Marsa power station was functioning.
However if gases from the cleaning of tanks are released into the air again, the same phenomenon will occur. Such concentration will lead to acidic rainfall which hastens the weathering and erosion process of buildings and other immoveable property.
3. Winds will push gases into other towns.
The prevailing winds over Marsa are mainly from the South, South-East and the East.
These winds blow inwards from the sea to the land and over residential areas, not just over Marsa but also the surrounding towns of Valletta, including the Waterfront area as well as parts of Floriana, Hamrun, Pieta, Msida, Paola and other nearby localities.
Toxic gases create smells which can be very repellent both to the locals and to tourists who visit our island by means of cruise ships which are berthed in Pinto wharf. One must also take into consideration the various restaurants in the Waterfront area.
4. The sports complex will be affected.
The Marsa sports complex can also be affected if there are gaseous fumes released from the cleansing facilities. This will leave an impact on the health of the athletes taking part in training sessions and sporting events.
5. It may pollute the water table.
If the sea is polluted by the emission of oil effluents from the cleaning of oil tanks, the lower water table can be at risk of becoming contaminated by the seepage of these effluents.
6. Acid rain over Marsa may increase.
Another risk is the contamination of the valleys by acid rain precipitating from an increase of air pollutants over Marsa.
The main valley – Wied il-Kbir – that ends in Marsa has many tributary valleys which collect rainwater from the higher parts of Malta (the watershed area) and descend into Wied il-Kbir.
These tributaries include Qlegħa valley passing through Rabat, Sewda valley through Qormi, Girgenti valley through Siġġiewi, Inċita valley through Attard, Qirda valley through Żebbuġ amongst others.
If the waters flowing through these tributary valleys are contaminated, the whole ecosystem will be affected, including their flora and fauna.
7. The townspeople are now at an increased risk of gas explosions.
Another risk factor to be considered is gas explosions. It is stipulated by the law that facilities where such hazards can occur should be located at a distance from residential areas.
The proposed location of the cleaning of oil tanks facilities in Marsa is only a few meters away from the town’s residential centre. Offices, restaurants, the Transport Malta offices and the Virtu ferry terminal are located just under these facilities.
Similar oil storage tanks in Birżebbuġa were removed after the residents complained of the potential dangers and after a risk assessment study was carried out. The people of Marsa are also asking for a risk assessment study on the potential hazards of these oil cleaning tanks before they are reallocated in the locality.
The people of Marsa should be regarded as having the same rights as the people of Birżebbuġa and Kalkara.
8. There will be psychological effects on the residents.
Marsa has more than its share of social problems, pollution problems, migrant issues and more.
Politicians have always promised to renovate the Marsa environment and it was planned to regenerate this part of the inner harbour area with the setting up of a yacht marina.
This regeneration was never implemented.
As a result, there is an outflow of people from Marsa, especially when it comes to the younger generation.
The residents consist of mainly middle-aged and older people who live in such a polluted environment that it affects their mental and psychological wellbeing.
No added pollutants are required to make the lives of the locals more miserable. Pollution in Marsa must constantly be monitored.
Regeneration of the locality is a must – not degeneration of the area.
9. More than anything, Marsa needs to be treated with respect.
Marsa needs to be given the importance it deserves as a residential area, a port area and as an industrial zone with central links to the whole of Malta.
The local council and the residents must be consulted in the taking of decisions for the reallocation of the oil cleaning tanks. Marsa, like other localities, has its own history that dates back to the Bronze Age.
It is a focal point where cultural exchanges take place as well as a centre for trade. Marsa always played an important role in the economic contribution of the Maltese islands – and Marsa deserves better from the central government.
Mary Attard as a Marsa resident and activist
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