Fly campaign gathers wings (ah-hem!)

Jane Breay, a local resident, has been investigating why there are so many flies around this year. You may have heard her discussing the topic on Spectrum FM this week. We’ve been in contact over email on the subject.

Her husband, by the way, is retired organic waste management specialist so she knows what she’s talking about!

The problem, basically, appears to be one of farmers not bothering to plough in their manure this year. The Junta approved a new 10 year plan last autumn governing the disposal of waste, which seems to give an impetus to farmers being allowed to “recycle” human effluence, which is why we’re suffering this year.

Joking aside, if it is that, this means that unless firm citizen action is taken, the cycle of recycled waste spraying / many flies could be with us year after year. Farmers will only take action if the Authorities make them: the politicos only get off their fat behinds if the voters poke them with a loud stick (ie, personal denuncias).

She’s sent me a very interesting letter:

“It is unlikely that anyone reading this can fail to have noticed that we have a horrendous and very unusual fly problem this year in the area. A small number of people have been trying to resolve this problem for the last two or three weeks, with limited success because we really need the help of the public at large if we are not to continue to endure it for several more weeks.

The level of infestation is a threat to public health and unfortunately also to the tourist economy of the area – no one wants the holidaymakers who are now here in their thousands to have a miserable holiday and more selfishly we don’t want them going back to their own countries and warning all their friends that Almería is full of flies because normally this is simply not the case.

So why this year?

Firstly, flies are not born on the wing. They need specific, very unpleasant conditions for the larvae to develop and hatch. That means rotting organic matter: poorly managed waste from sewage treatment plants, manure or the remnants of harvested vegetables not quickly turned in, decaying carcasses, broken sewerage pipes, illegally dumped septic tank waste, are all equally desirable to the fly. Certain weather conditions – hot and humid – make all these much more effective breeding grounds.

It is difficult to know why this year is so much worse than we have ever known. Slightly higher humidity may have been a factor but cannot possibly account for the level of infestation we have seen. It is more likely that economic pressures may have tempted people not to take the proper measures in control and treatment of waste of all sorts.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that this year something has gone very badly wrong with the management of organic waste. It really is difficult to comprehend why the spreading of organic waste on the land is happening at this time of year when the conditions for fly development are at their best and the development period from larva to fly is at its shortest.

The second important fact is that there is a limit to how far a fly can fly, even in windy conditions. Studies show that

1)the main reason for travel is over-population at the original breeding site,
2)mostly they do not travel more than 5km and
3)most will not go further than 1.5km.

Of course once a new breeding site has been established there is a new radius of travel. This may explain why there are pockets of infestation all over the area, assuming (as is currently alleged) the original local source is improperly managed solids from the Vera sewage treatment plant, dumped in more than one location and not properly turned in. At this point the waste would be the responsibility of the person acquiring it and not the plant. There is no suggestion as far as we know that the Mojácar and Vera plants have not followed good practice during the treatment of sewage however it would be interesting to know if they have been using insecticides during the process before the solids are removed.

So what can be done?

Whatever measures you take at home to mitigate the situation will not solve the problem – it’s like putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg. The sources have to be dealt with.

All the actual and potential breeding grounds need to be identified and the people responsible denounced to the Guardia Civil, who will take immediate action and it will not take long for the message to get round the agricultural community that there is no hiding place and being economical with the truth is not an option.

So if you are suffering at home, get into your car and do a tour of your immediate area, initially over a radius of 1km, and if you don’t find anything, widen your search to 2km or even to 3km. If the infestation is very bad at home then you should find something within this area. If you don’t know who is actually responsible, mark the area precisely on a map, if you DO know, then even better. Go to the Guardia Civil in the relevant municipality and denounce the person or area responsible on the grounds of danger to public health. If you do not speak enough Spanish then try to find someone who does, or if you live in the Mojácar, Vera, Turre etc area, contact us.

If you are able to deal with the Guardia yourself, we would still appreciate it if you could advise us of where you found the problem, where and when you reported it and also ultimately what action has been taken and how long it took. We are trying to build up a comprehensive picture which may enable us to stop this problem before it starts in future years.”
Jane Breay

Any comments, post them here or email me or Jane.

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5 Replies to “Fly campaign gathers wings (ah-hem!)”

  1. Thanks for a very good post. We dont live close to ànything but have also noticed the increase in flies. Higher than normal humidity and temperatures must be a factor.

    One of the few sensible things Mao requested was for every Chinese to kill 10 flies a day. If 40 million able bodied residents of Spain followed this that would be 400 million less flies each day or over 12 billion in a month. LETS ALL GET SWATTING!

  2. I have an apartment on Vale de Este golf course. When I arrived there on 22 June there were swarms of flies (far more that I subsequently saw in either Mojacar or Garrucha) I was told that the flies(and the accompanying smell of sewage / maunure)were caused by the local farmer who farms along the Valle de Este – Garrucha Rd. I was also told the hotel manager had denounced the farmer but I don’t know if that was a fact.

  3. Hi Alan. I am Jane, author of article. As far as I can ascertain (and getting info has not been easy) no one from VdE actually denounced anyone but the manager of the entire complex did get Vera Ayuntamiento and the local police involved and one farmer was made to take some action in terms of fumigating. That certainly had a minor effect but it was not until the ayuntamiento of Mojacar denounced Vera (or the Vera depuradora, not sure which, following my interview on Spectrum and Richard Shanley’s conversation with the Mayor of Mojacar) that a major fumigation took place last week. That has certainly had a marked effect on the golf course and surrounding area. They are fumigating the golf course vegetation/ trees every three or four days but quite honestly it won’t help a lot without getting to the source.

  4. Thank you Jane. I flew back to England last weekend. It was amaszing how many times I heard people at the airport mention the flies. I suspect that any first-time visitors won’t ever return, no matter what is done (and will tell their friends) so a certain amount of damage has probably been done to the area’s economy already. Let’s hope the Mayor and the Ayuntamiento keep on the case and make the area a “no fly” zone. Thanks for all your efforts to resolve this issue. Keep up the good work. Alan

  5. We have a property in Antas. The foulest of waste was used on the land around our property last week where orange trees once grew. These fields were within 5 meters of my boundary on 3 sides. The smell was so bad we had to vacate. We have never seen clouds of flies before. The police were called and the farmer called us to appologise, saying he was entitled to do this once every 3 years in August and that he would turn it into the soil the following day.This reduced the smell somewhat but the flies are still everywhere, we are netting 300-400 dead flies from the pool 3 x a day. We are now back in the U.K and our friends are staying at our home they have said the fly problem is still very bad. Will I be better contacting my solicitor or should I write a letter to the mayor of Antas along with other signatures of complaint. Is there any health agency I can contact to report this to as the area is nothing short of being like a third world country.We have never experienced anything like this in 11 years of owning our home.

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