Authorities in the Spanish seaside resort town of Zahara de los Atunes are apologizing for spraying their local beaches with bleach in a misguided effort to protect those flocking to the water from coronavirus. The town’s authorities used tractors to comb beaches and spray bleach on the sand earlier this week so children can play. The move coincided with the relaxing of rules allowing people to leave their homes after quarantine.
The move sparked outcry from environmentalists who say it damaged the beach and its ecosystem.
Maria Dolores Iglesias, who is the head of a volunteer environmental group in the area, told Spanish news outlets quoted by the BBC News that the bleach “killed everything on the ground, nothing is seen, not even insects.”
The beach and its dunes are also a breeding ground for birds to lay and nest eggs, Iglesias said, noting she saw one nest that was damaged by the tractors.
"It has been an aberration what they have done, also taking into account that the virus lives in people not on the beach," she said. "It is crazy."
Greenpeace Espana took to Twitter to slam the news of the bleach on the beach.
"Fumigating beaches in the middle of the breeding season for birds or the development of the invertebrate network that will support coastal fishing ... is not one of Trump's ideas. It is happening in Zahara de los Atunes," they tweeted.
Environmentalists like Iglesias said that because no one is on the beach, wildlife has been thriving. The claims are not unfounded as many places around the world like Venice has seen fish return to much cleaner water and notoriously polluted cities like Los Angeles and Delhi, India.
Following the outcry, local official Agustín Conejo told Spanish reporters it “was a wrong move,” adding, “I admit that it was a mistake, it was done with the best intention.”
Conejo said the town official’s intentions were simply to protect the children who were going to frolic on the beach after six long weeks in containment.
The news of the bleach comes less than a week after U.S. President Donald Trump suggest that maybe injecting bleach into the human body could kill the coronavirus. Trump later said he was being “sarcastic.”
Spain, which has had over 24,000 deaths due to COVID19, announced a four part opening to the country which will hope to get everything back up and running by the end of June. The country has been on full quarantine since March.