Original language

Portuguese, International

Date of text
Type of court
National - higher court
Court name
Supremo Tribunal de Justiça
Seat of court
Reference number
Application No. SJ200601260036617
Civil, Damages, Human Rights
Free tags
Legal questions
Waste & hazardous substances
Custódio Montes

 The municipality of Sendim filed a claim the municipalities of against Vale do Sousa and de Felgueiras and against two building companies for causing serious damages to people and environment in consequence of pollution.

The claimant asked the tribunal for: 1) a declaration that states that the place where these companies built a landfill is inadequate for the disposal or management of industrial waste 2) an order on these companies to refrain from conducting any activity involving processing, storing or disposal of any industrial waste in the geographical area of Francoim 3) the obligation to pay a fine of 200,000 crowns for each day any of the company breaches these bans. The claimant explained the requests by arguing that the landfill stores and processes toxic waste, causing irreparable damages to the environment, public health and quality of life of not only the population of the geographic area of Sendim, but also of the residents of the five municipalities nearby. The defendant denied the toxicity of their waste, arguing that 95% of their waste came from the county of Felgueiras and showed technical reports demonstrating that the landfill is harmless for the environment and its establishment was approved by the Ministry of Environment. The court of first instance ruled in favour of the defendant.

The plaintiff filed an appeal to the Supreme Court alleging violation of their Human Rights to an healthy environment, personal health and quality of life, and in addition accused them of polluting public waters; the absence of a pre-selection of other sites for the construction of the landfill and a geographical, morphological and hydrological  inadequacy of the actual place of the landfill that put public security at risk.

The Supreme Court received the appeal and answered that the risk of pollution of a landfill is real but in this precise case it results tolerable and reasonable, as the managing of waste is a fundamental necessity for population and that the  facts show that the landfill was in fact built and managed under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment. With regard to the inadequacy and unsuitability of the landfill placement, the Court ruled that the legal framework used by the plaintiff is not applicable as it was adopted after the landfill was built and therefore no lack of knowledge from the authority should be claimed. For all these reasons the Supreme Court rejects the appeal.