Disused Hondoq desalination plant to be reactivated

The plant will produce 5,000 cubic metres of water on a daily basis, although it will also cause the discharge of backwash water into the nearby sea

The plant, already covering a site of 3,300 sq.m in a protected Natura 2000 site, will be repaired for its renewed use
The plant, already covering a site of 3,300 sq.m in a protected Natura 2000 site, will be repaired for its renewed use

Plans have been submitted to reactivate the use of a desalination plant at Hondoq ir-Rummien, putting to an end plans to commercialise the facility for tourism purposes but raising concerns on noise pollution in a protected area and next to a popular beach.

The plant will produce 5,000 cubic metres of water on a daily basis, although it will also cause the discharge of backwash water into the nearby sea from an outfall.

The building, located in Hondoq ir-Rummien, dates back to the late 1960s and today lies in a dilapidated state. The public property was in a state of disuse for years as private developers attempted to turn a nearby quarry into a tourist village, but failed amidst local opposition.

Before the 2013 general election, Labour leader Joseph Muscat had proposed that the dilapidated building be replaced by new facilities, such as an indoor swimming pool using the same footprint. PL candidate Clint Camilleri had also suggested a restaurant and cafeteria to complement the pool.

But it now seems that pressing water scarcity issues have overruled plans to commercialise the space.

Gozo is dependent for its potable water supply on groundwater extraction. Due to high nitrate levels and saline intrusion, groundwater in Gozo is already treated in a polishing plant to a higher quality level and blended with the remaining unpolished groundwater. Rising demand for water from the agricultural and tourism sectors means that Gozo may need an alternative supply.  A pipeline already exists linking the two islands which may provide the shortfall.

The plant, already covering a site of 3,300 sq.m in a protected Natura 2000 site, will be repaired for its renewed use. The Environment and Resources Authority has warned that the development may lead to possible impacts on the Special Area of Conservation, mainly due to possible disturbance of seabirds due to noise and light emissions.

The environmental impact of the project will be assessed in an Appropriate Assessment (AA).

The reverse osmosis plant is expected to operate non-stop which means continuous substantial amount of noise will be generated from the machinery in use.

The ERA has asked the Water Services Corporation to provide it with details of the effluent which will be generated by the plant. Studies will also assess the potential impact of the release of briny water on Posidonia oceania meadows. 

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