Bureaucracy and inadequate inspections are major problems

The area around the Kifissos River has appeared in red on the map ever since the 1950s, showing that it has been earmarked for industrial development. Half a century later, the once-clear water of the river has turned red, blue and green. The area has been heavily industrialized, and the lack of an adequate drainage system and controls has prompted illegal dumping which has made the Kifissos a chameleon that changes color according to the phases of industrial production. Checks are needed, since the dumped industrial waste puts both the environment and public health at risk. The water utility company EYDAP is responsible for the technical approval, while the municipality in which a factory is located connects the pipes carrying processed waste with the main grid. EYDAP certifies that the pipe meets requirements, that the factory’s connection to the main grid is correct, and then undertakes the responsibility of supervising the waste, carrying out regular inspections at special shafts for testing liquid waste. Violations and problems usually arise from red tape, from the authorities turning a blind eye, and also from the high cost of taking any measures. A typical example of the inadequacy of the inspection process is the case of factories which by their very nature produce problematic waste. «Tanneries belong in this category,» chemical engineer and head of the environment department of Tavros Municipality, Stavros Vounatsis, told Kathimerini. «According to EYDAP’s inspection samples, they discharge waste that is within the toxicity limit. In fact, the size of the factories is out of proportion to their waste-processing units, so it’s obvious that this waste isn’t ‘clean.’» Profitis Daniil, a stream which debouches into the Kifissos, goes through Tavros. What happens is that EYDAP «turns a blind eye» because the government made a commitment in 1978 to relocate the tanneries with the help of a state subsidy. Raising the issue would be a reminder of state commitments and would mean the withdrawal of a large sum from the state budget. The economic factor determines not only the attitude of the State but also of businesses. The factories cannot meet the costs of enlarging their waste-processing units. «A pork factory, for example, with a waste toxicity level of 105, when the maximum limit is 100, must double its investment to bring it down 5 percent, which leads to the conclusion that EYDAP should be more flexible in some cases,» said Vounatsis. Another example is that of factories that have been in operation for 50 years, have paid their rates to EYDAP, but have suddenly been found in violation of current legislation. The infringement consists of the fact that their waste pipes go through the property of a third party to connect to the main grid, and in this case the third party’s approval is required. «The status of land ownership has changed greatly in recent years, as these areas were once big estates. The estates were eventually subdivided and the factory’s waste pipe goes through dozens of properties owned by third parties,» explains Vounatsis. EYDAP demands that the pipe be moved, even to the other side of the factory, so as not to cross a third party’s property, which is expensive and in many cases not technically feasible. It is extremely difficult to locate sources of pollution, because, in most cases, the pipe discharging waste is not connected to a nearby factory. The factory that is discharging the waste can’t be located because it has an illegal pipeline. To sum up, in Vounatsis’s view, «EYDAP is unnecessarily strict in some cases, but in others it turns a blind eye, is indifferent, or gets caught up in red tape.»