Europe in My Region

Comillas is a Spanish town on the west coast of Cantabria. It is noted both regionally and nationally for having been declared a site of historic and artistic interest in 1985. It is home to buildings in the Classicist mountain style, characteristic of the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as buildings from the late 19th century in the modernist Catalan style.

This is a repost of El Secreto Mejor Guardado de Comillas, originally published in Spanish by Cantabria Europa intern Gemma Bedia Bueno (@gemmabedia, Facebook), and translated into English by the European Commission as part of the Europe in My Region 2016 blogging competition.

Palacio de Sobrellano / Gemma Bedia
Palacio de Sobrellano / Gemma Bedia

Among these buildings, Joan Martorell’s Palacio de Sobrellano, Gaudi’s El Capricho, the Chapel-Pantheon of the Marqueses of Comillas (Joan Martorell), the Universidad Pontificia (Joan Martorell) and the cemetery (with its gateway by Domenech i Montaner, and Angel de Llimona) are particularly noteworthy.

Cemetery / Gemma Bedia
Cemetery / Gemma Bedia
Entry to the Universidad Pontificia / Gemma Bedia
Entry to the Universidad Pontificia / Gemma Bedia

This collection of architecture is due in large part to Antonio Lopez, the first Marquis of Comillas, who, thanks to his friendship with King Alfonso XII of Spain, managed to get His Majesty to visit the town during summer, turning Comillas into an attractive summer location for the aristocracy of the era. For this reason, modernist Catalan architects, such as the renowned Antonio Gaudi, built noteworthy buildings in this town.

The ideal way to visit these buildings is to follow the “modernist route”, as set out in the following link: http://www.comillas.es/rutas/ruta-modernista

Entry to Casa Moro (A. Gaudi) / Gemma Bedia
Entry to Casa Moro (A. Gaudi) / Gemma Bedia

But Comillas is not only important in terms of history and art – it is also located in unique natural surroundings. Between Comillas and San Vicente de la Barquera is Oyambre Natural Park, which spreads over 57 square kilometres and was declared a Natural Park in 1988.

The Natural Park houses the estuaries of La Rabia and San Vicente de la Barquera, their extensive sea marshes, the beaches and dunes of Oyambre, the playa de Merón, Mount Corona and, more generally, rural landscape and green pastures.

Estuary of La Rabia / Gemma Bedia
Estuary of La Rabia / Gemma Bedia

This Natural Park is home to very important flora and fauna. The fauna includes noteworthy species such as the gannet, swan, heron, peregrine falcon, cormorant and common egret, amongst others. It is also characterised by its varied plantlife, such as, for example, heather, fennel and reeds. These natural surroundings are ideal for walks or bike rides. The routes most noted for their beauty and accessibility to the public are:
“Comillas Marinera y Monumental” and “the bike route from Comillas to the Estuary of La Rabia”.
All the routes are detailed on this website: http://www.comillas.es/archivos/rutas-comillas.pdf

The estuaries of San Vicente de la Barquera and La Rabia are known for their beauty and wonderful natural conservation. This natural conservation is due in part to the European Regional Development Fund. In order to achieve conservation in the town of Comillas and its surroundings, a sanitation system respecting both the natural landscape and the architecture of the town was introduced.

WWTP and, at the bottom, the Universidad Pontificia / Source: Government of Cantabria
WWTP and, at the bottom, the Universidad Pontificia / Source: Government of Cantabria

The system adopted is the first of its kind in Spain, given that it built the country’s first underground Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). When selecting this option, maximum reduction of infrastructure and the system’s versatility, given that it is ideally suited to deal with the town’s increased population during the summer season and the decrease of the same during low season, were taken into account.

Interior of the WWTP / Source: Government of Cantabria
Interior of the WWTP / Source: Government of Cantabria

One of the innovative elements of this WWTP is the technology known as bio-filtering. Using this system, water is purified biologically through a biolite filter. This filter is a rock made up of plant and animal organisms and it allows micro-organisms to develop within a homogeneous granular support. This filtering system provides for better decomposition of remains, leading to non-toxic products.

Interior view
Source: Government of Cantabria

Likewise, the plant also has the capacity to re-use the purified water through an ultra-filtering process, thus complying with European laws. The WWTP does not only benefit the town of Comillas, but is also used to handle water coming from other nearby towns like La Rabia, Trasvia and Rubarcena, the municipality of Ruiloba and certain parts of Valdaliga and San Vicente de la Barquera.
The project has addressed the changes which have taken place in recent years in the coastal area: increased industrial consumption and an increase in population over the summer season. With the capacity to process 856 cubic metres of waste water per day during winter and 5 310 cubic metres in summer, and serving 33 000 inhabitants, which means a flow rate of 8 790 cubic metres of waste water per day.

Exterior of the WWTP / Gemma Bedia
Exterior of the WWTP / Gemma Bedia

This project was carried out within the framework of the National Water Quality Plan: Sanitation and Purification 2007-2015 being unrolled by the Ministry of the Environment with the collaboration of the Autonomous Regions. This plan used as a reference point the Directive 2000/60/EC, known as the EU Water Directive, and seeks to comply with the requirements of Directive 91/27/EEC. The Plan’s objective is to improve the quality of continental and coastal waters.
The WWTP project was carried out on the initiative of the General Department for Hydraulic Works and the Integral Water Cycle of the Regional Government for the Environment in Cantabria. It belongs to the Operational Programme ‘Cohesion Fund – ERDF’ for the period 2007-2013, part of which includes specific measures for the environment, focusing on waste water and prevention of natural risks. The plan itself is named: “Sanitation and purification in Comillas and Ruiloba: WWTP Phase” within the framework of “Expense category 2.54: Other measures for the protection of the environment and risk prevention.

The total cost of building the WWTP was EUR 12 547 803, of which EUR 6 273 902 came from ERDF funds.

Lastly, it is noteworthy that the measures taken to achieve the project were considered “Good Practice” by the Ministry for Housing and Public Administrations. You can consult “Good Practices” for the Autonomous Region of Cantabria at the following link:

http://www.dgfc.sgpg.meh.es/sitios/dgfc/es-ES/ipr/fcp0713/c/bp/ac/ac2012/Paginas/POFEDERCantabria.aspx

Gemma Bedia Bueno

Source:

http://www.comillas.es

www.turismocomillas.com

http://www.dgfc.sgpg.meh.es

http://www.cantabria.es

http://www.federcantabria.es

http://www.magrama.gob.es

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