POLICE in the northern town of Zaldibar have arrested the owners of a rubbish dump after the horrendous death of two workers.
Three owners of VERTER Recycling plant in the Vizcaya province of the Basque country have been arrested for potential breaches of environmental standards, workers’ rights and site mismanagement after a detention order was issued by the Basque Department of Security.
The horrific incident occurred on February 6, when Alberto Sololuze and Joaquín Beltrán were crushed by thousands of tonnes of rubbish after the surface they were stood on gave way.
A rescue mission began on the same day, but fires, unstable ground and the discovery of asbestos have led to the bodies remaining undiscovered five months on.
The men’s families have denounced the rescue mission, calling it ‘complete nonsense’ and ‘poorly coordinated from start to finish.’
“They’ve been running around like headless chickens,” said Andrea Ropero, host of the Spanish television talk show La Sexta.
In an interview with the host, sister-in-law of one of the missing workers told Ropero that ‘he had already warned his superiors there were cracks in the rubbish mound and that he had heard noises that indicated there could be a landslide.’
According to sources involved in the investigation, the three arrested are the site owner, José Ignacio Barinaga, Arrate Bilbao Barinaga, administrative officer of the company, and a site technical director who is yet to me named.
Investigations are still underway as to whether the site owners had deliberately ignored safety measures in order to save money.
Ropero explained that a landfill of that size has a lifespan of 35 years, however, in just 13 years it was already at 75% capacity.
Family members also told of warnings that the site management received from workers and authorities that the mound was an accident waiting to happen but they were constantly ignored.