At last, Elefsina’s beaches get the OK for swimming

The sea off the coast of Elefsina is – after 40 years – once again safe for swimming. After carrying out exhaustive tests, the Health Ministry and the Environment and Public Works Ministry have ruled that the beach at Elefsina may once more be included in the list of sites that are safe for swimmers. For some years now, scientists have been observing a gradual improvement in the Saronic Gulf in general, which they attribute mainly to the opening of the waste treatment plant at Psyttaleia. However, Elefsina has always been the area’s worst-off spot, as the main sources of effluent all found their way to its coastline. Local residents, with the help of their current mayor, Giorgos Abatzoglou, have been pitting themselves against the local oil refinery, the Petrola firm, cement factories and tanneries. And with good cause. Twenty percent of Attica’s waste ended up on their waterfront, along with 522,000 cubic meters of waste per day from three extremely hazardous units and from two breweries, all together 90 percent of the entire volume of pollution in the Saronic Gulf. The last straw for Elefsina was the problem of providing anchorage for 80 percent of Greece’s laid-up ships, 500 in 1975 and 435 in 1980. For three decades, local residents and organizations have been battling the problem, with some considerable success. High-risk installations have been removed from the areas. Although the two refineries have expanded, they have been forced to install effective counterpollution measures. In 1999 the State was forced to classify the Elefsina gulf as a «sensitive area» and take special measures to protect and improve it. The results have been remarkable and visible. The volume of industrial waste is down from 500,000 to 50,000 cubic meters daily. The Psytalleia plant has cleared the area of Athens’s waste effluent, and the number of laid-up ships has been reduced to 40. Mayor Abatzoglou told Kathimerini that slowly and gradually (for the seabed is still covered in grease), a real improvement in the quality of the marine environment has become evident.

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