The Pontevedra river hosts several very polluting industries which have dumped their wastes into the river for many years. These industries are: ENCE, a pulp mill and biomass energy producer located by the river in 1963 and ELNOSA, a chemical company which produces chlorine-derivates.
In 2002, the ENCE company recognised that its production was polluting the river. That was recognised by 6 directives who were sentenced to 6 months in prison and a fine of 433,000 euros for having breached the directive on hybrid waste dumps until 1994. El Pais newspaper (15/06/2011) reported: "La Audiencia de Pontevedra condenó ayer a seis de los nueve directivos de la Empresa Nacional de Celulosa (Ence-Elnosa) a cinco meses de arresto por vertido de residuos contaminantes a la ría." However, the sentence was never enforced and the fine was never paid.
Until mid-2013, these companies were supposed to leave the river by 2018. The Spanish government, however, extended the permission to stay for 75 additional years.
It is alleged that these industries have negatively affected some of the local economies in the area, especially for the shellfish farmers. Currently, it is alleged the shellfish caught by the river has a label of C category (meaning quite low).
While the ENCE company claims that, especially since 2006, significant environmental improvements have been undertaken in its installations, opposition to this company and to ELNOSA have been taking place for many years.
Several organisations, grouped under the umbrella of the Asociación por la Defensa de la Ría de Pontevedra (APDR) have been trying to stop these companies polluting the Pontevedrian river and to recover the affected areas. They have launched public campaigns against the companies; they have brought the companies before the Courts of Justice (and they have won) and they have organised multiple demonstrations against the decision of extending the permission beyond 2018. One of the last ones was on 24th of November 2013. About a thousand people demonstrated in Pontevedra against the decision of extending the permission to be in the Ria. As la Voz of Pontevedra (24/11/2013) newspaper reports: "El comunicado oficial de la movilización, leído al final de la protesta en la praza da Peregrina, lo leyó el escritor Carlos Solla, que hizo una irónica mención a las consecuencias ambientales y sociales de la ubicación del complejo industrial Ence Elnosa en la ría Solla, señaló, por ejemplo, que esta situación había marcado a una generación que denominó jocosamente «os nenos do mercurio» e hizo un alegato a favor de la marcha de ambas industrias del entorno inmediato de la ría. La movilización de ayer la convocó la Plataforma 2018, creada para dar cobertura a partidos políticos, colectivos sociales y vecinales, así como a formaciones ecologistas.”
The APDR defends a model of sustainable development based in the rational use of sea and forest resources, and a tourism model not based on the idea of mass tourism. The organisation is open to any citizen interested in the rehabilitation of the river and its adjacent areas.