Barely a week after the largest wastewater treatment plant was repaired, having been clogged by illegally-dumped farm effluent, another fault has developed, causing the discharge of raw sewage off the Xgħajra coast.

This newspaper received reports last Friday that seagulls were again seen feasting on a large patch of untreated sewage, which was even visible from land.

Questions on the matter sent to the Water Services Corporation were still not answered at the time of writing.

Inaugurated in 2011, the €60 million Ta’ Barkat plant treats 80 per cent of the country’s sewage before it is discharged into the sea. However, Xgħajra residents have been complaining that the plant had not been functioning properly for quite some time.

Farmers insist they have few other options because no proper facilities exist yet in Malta

They expressed concern that if no action was taken that part of the coast would again become contaminated.

Up to 2011 the sea off Xgħajra was notoriously famous because all of the country’s untreated sewage used to be discharged there.

The plant broke down last month, with a WSC spokesman blaming illegal dumping of farm waste into the sewerage system.

Though it was back in operation on March 5, it did not last long because a week later fresh problems surfaced.

The farming community has been repeatedly blamed for illegally dumping waste into the sewerage system but farmers insist they have few other options because no proper facilities exist yet in Malta.

This situation prevails in spite of a 2008 deadline that bound the government to provide such facilities in accordance with EU pre-accession conditions.

Though there are now plans for a facility in the north, this would only treat 35,000 tonnes of cow manure and 4,000 tonnes of poultry manure, well short out of the 850,000 cubic metres generated by farms every year.

However, an Environment Ministry spokeswoman said that an interministerial committee had been set up to advise the government on the way forward.

She added that, under certain conditions, cow manure could be reused in agriculture for fertilisation while waste streams in general could also be used to generate electricity.