The Environment Ministry has fined 20 factories a total of 1.4 million euros for polluting the Asopos River, central Greece, after checks conducted by state inspection teams. The industrial plants were found to be dumping untreated toxic waste in the heavily polluted river via drainage systems that have not been approved by local authorities. Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias said yesterday that up to August this year, fines of 530,000 euros had been imposed on those found guilty of violating environmental laws. «After the completion of this procedure, total fines reaching 1.4 million euros have been imposed on 20 companies and the case files have been forwarded to the prosecutor for criminal proceedings,» added the minister. The ministry stepped up checks of the Asopos after recent evidence that drinking water drawn from the river is heavily contaminated. Data from the General Chemical State Laboratory have shown higher-than-expected levels of carcinogenic depleted chromium in water samples taken from the river, a stretch of which is adjoined by one of the country's largest industrial zones. The minister added that companies which refuse to pay the fines will be temporarily or permanently shut down. Ministry officials added that offenders have the right to appeal the decisions and may try to have the fines reduced. In a bid to avoid this in future, the ministry plans to increase its powers to impose penalties through a legislative amendment. Yesterday's decison to call in a prosecutor to investigate offenders also paves the way for locals to seek compensation from the factories responsible for pollution, sources added.