The mystery of the spill of “possible fuel” for which a paradisiacal beach in Tenerife was closed

For nearly a complete day, from Sunday to Monday last week, the numerous regulars and spontaneous visitors to the exquisite La Tejita beach, situated in the Granadilla municipality in the southern part of Tenerife, were disappointed to find their beach experience completely marred by a fuel spill, leading to a significant deployment of public resources. The Town Council of the area took to their social media platforms on the same Sunday upon detecting a “potential fuel leakage”, resulting in the urgent dispatch of Maritime Rescue teams, Local Police, Civil Protection, and the Tamadaya Civil Protection team to the cove, which is well-known and controversial in the Canary Islands (due to the partially built hotel that is now back under construction and bears its name). As a precautionary measure, the beach was closed to visitors.

The situation appeared to be quite serious, especially considering a similar incident that caused a stir back in January 2018. Despite thorough inspections, the source of the spill remains unconfirmed at present. Even the initial suspect, Cepsa, a company with a pipeline in the vicinity that extends to Tenerife Sur airport (located nearby) for kerosene supply to docking ships, confirmed on Wednesday to Canarias Now that their divers found no leaks in the pipeline network.

The closure of La Tejita on the previous Sunday and part of Monday also affected the nearby bathing spot known as El Chinchorro. After necessary inspections deemed the waters safe for swimming once again, the beaches were reopened to the public on Monday. However, certain groups took notice of the incident. Salvar La Tejita, an environmental group that has long been fighting against the construction of the mentioned hotel, raised concerns on their platforms claiming a “kerosene spill” had occurred, pointing out the increased frequency of ships supplying the airport through the La Tejita underwater pipeline in recent months. They reinforced their claims with photo and video evidence of the inspection work conducted on the spill.

The former Deputy Minister of the Environment, Blanca Pérez (CC), who now holds a similar position in the Tenerife Cabildo, clarified that the issue arose in the valve nearest to the sea among the 10 that the pipeline possesses. Simultaneously, she specified that “approximately a thousand litres of fuel” were discharged into the ocean, as reported by Cepsa.

Despite the situation not escalating, the former Granadilla Security Councilor, Jacobo Pérez (CC), mentioned that such incidents were not uncommon, stating that “the Civil Guard has confirmed two additional spills”, which he deemed “serious given that it is one of Tenerife’s finest beaches and a protected natural area”. However, he acknowledged that the authorities responded promptly to tackle the contamination.

In the same year, Greenpeace activists aboard the Esperanza ship protested against the marine pollution in Tenerife by symbolically closing La Tejita, the neighbouring beach of El Médano, and another beach in the Tenerife municipality of Candelaria. Their aim was to draw attention to this issue (the EU has even penalized the Canary Islands for this matter) and raise public awareness.

Presently, with Cepsa’s explanations at hand, the exact causes of the most recent spill remain unclear. However, there is a prevailing concern among environmental organisations that a similar incident could occur again.

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