Regular visitors to this website will be aware of our concern for the continuing reports of holiday complaints and illness in the resort of Los Gigantes in Tenerife. This is now the second year where affected holidaymakers have reported that they have suffered with Norovirus. We have called for action during this two year period to resolve these problems and hoped that at the very least, the local authorities would have taken action to resolve the problems from 2010; apparently not! We are receiving calls from affected holidaymakers who report that upon arrival at their hotel they are presented with written information about the illness; we ask the question - if the information is available for arriving guests, why is it not given to holidaymakers before they depart? Whilst the 2011 scenario plays itself out, we decided that we would investigate to see if we could ascertain what exactly is going on down there; what for example are local people (including ex-pats) saying about the situation?
It has not been easy to establish the nature of this debate, but I think we have found some interesting information. As far as we can tell the first concerns were raised as far back as 2006. In the Los Gigantes.com online English newspaper, there are two articles which set out the extent of the concerns stretching from Playa de las Americas up to Los Gigantes. It appears that at the time, one of the local poitical parties made a statement on the sewage system, they stated that:
"In fact the situation is much more serious, the whole coastline from Playa de la Arena to Los Gigantes is affected, and none of the sewage treatment systems are working, and haven't been for quite some time. This is not only a health hazzard, detrimental to marine and other wildlife in the area, but also detracts from the "blue flag" image the Town Hall so proudly boasts. CCN shares the concerns of the people of Puerto Santiago, and will make sure that this situation will have maximum priority in their proposals for the 2007 elections".
The article called for improvement on the 'elementary necessities'; the editors were concerned that such improvements were necessary to help develop the local tourist industry.
The same newspaper article also reported several local residents complaints concerning 'uncontrolled spillages' into the sea. It appears that a number of residents had gone to the town hall on several ocassions to demand that 'this problem - which by the way, we have been suffering for more than a year, is solved'. The local mayor denied that there was a problem, pointing to the fact that a local sewage station only released treated water into the sea by Puerto Santiago - the local residents explained that in fact there was also a pipe that transmitted the sewage into the sea. It appears that the Mayor at the time simply explained that he had answered concerns, however the article added a comment apparently made by the mayor which states, 'he considers it “important” that a water purifier exists to treat the sewage that lets out in to the sea, “in a tourist municipality'.
This same set of comments were also commented on within the 2006 Los Gigantes Message Board where again local residents considered that local sewage treament facilities were a 'priority' given the increase in development in the area.
In the 2007 Los Gigantes Message Board we discovered that questions were raised about the sewage smells. One poster explained that these smells had been 'in and around LG for as long as I can remember' - he added that he thought the sewage system put in years ago 'struggles' to cope with the sewage. Another poster thought that when the resort was built, 'they didn't pay too much attention about drains and smells'. The debate on sewage disposal was further extended when one poster asked 'what happened to the new sewage station' , which does not appear to to have been answered in this thread.
In 2010, the Los Gigantes Message Board received reports from visitors and residents of the problem of Norovirus. Some reported sewage smells in the resort, one poster commented, 'I am quite sure that raw sewage is still pumped into the ocean some distance from the shore'. There is also some concern expressed that the local council is not getting to grips with the problem.
Fast forward to 2011 and yet again, within the Los Gigantes Message Board, residents and visitors talk of the problem of Norovirus! One holidaymaker referred to discussions with local bar owners who would prefer that the problem was not brushed 'under the carpet'. They apparently thought the problems were due to a sewage slick outside the harbour, though some posters consider that this 'slick is due to choppy waters and seaweed. One very supportive poster for the area however offers his own comments on the illness by asking questions on the local authority's role, he states:
"But is says nothing to us. Not a single press release. Nothing about numbers of victims. No reassurance to tourists by publishing the results of sea water tests for independent scrutiny. Nothing about hygiene initiatives they have introduced in local shops, bars and hotels etc. Nothing about reassuring results from inspections they have carried out".
Another poster challenges the local authority on tests by stating:
"So, here is a plea from a voter. If the results are positive please shout them from the roof-tops NOW, together with everything else you have done, not just regarding Norovirus, but everything else. If there are problems, don't be frightened to say so, alongside showing some initiative on how you intend to deal with it".
At a Local Conservative Party PP meeting in Los Gigantes (28/2/2011), it was reported that,
"The question of the water quality off-shore was raised by a member of the audience, as it is relevant to all these beach projects. The Council stated that Playa Arena has a Blue Flag and assurances were made that the water off Los Gigantes beach is regularly tested. There are settling tanks in Los Gigantes which remove all the solids, so that only clean water is pumped into the ocean. It was suggested that the opinion of the Diving Club, the local medical proffession and Oasis (including the Bowling Club) be sought on this issue".
One poster on the Los Gigantes Message Board raised 4 very important questions as a result of this meeting, they ask:
1. Are the settling tanks still bypassed during periods of heavy rainfall (because they can't cope with the volume of water) and when this happens are water quality tests taken along the coast? 2. Is the water quality immediately below the Los Gigantes Hotel regularly tested? If it is, can the results be published? If it isn't, will it now be tested and the results published for independent scrutiny in order to dispel the rumour which is damaging the reputation of the hotel and the resort as a whole? 3. How is the sewage from the Los Gigantes Hotel pumped to the settling tanks? 4. Is the liquid waste which has passed through the settling tanks and ready for discharge into the sea tested for the presence of the virus before discharge. If so, can the results be published? 5. Where is the liquid discharged? 6. Are there ANY sewer pipes in the resort which discharge directly into the sea and not via the settlement tanks? If so, at what point(s) and are water samples taken and tested in the vicinity?
2. Is the water quality immediately below the Los Gigantes Hotel regularly tested? If it is, can the results be published? If it isn't, will it now be tested and the results published for independent scrutiny in order to dispel the rumour which is damaging the reputation of the hotel and the resort as a whole?
3. How is the sewage from the Los Gigantes Hotel pumped to the settling tanks?
4. Is the liquid waste which has passed through the settling tanks and ready for discharge into the sea tested for the presence of the virus before discharge. If so, can the results be published?
5. Where is the liquid discharged?
6. Are there ANY sewer pipes in the resort which discharge directly into the sea and not via the settlement tanks? If so, at what point(s) and are water samples taken and tested in the vicinity?
Our research has found serious comment and questions from local residents and holidaymakers from the Los Gigantes area. If we can find this information, surely the tour operators sending holidaymakers to this area, also have the same information contained within the health and safety audits? If not why not?
It is clear that there are serious questions that need answers; now is the time for the Santiago del Teide Local Authorities, Hotel(s) and Tour Operators to deal with this problem and provide information that addresses the concerns. Not only do I ask them to provide answers but I challenge them to do so or must we wait for someone to die before action is taken?
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised here, no matter what your destination, then please contact us at HolidayTravelWatch.
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