EU wrath over Greek environment

The European Commission yesterday said it was pursuing legal action against Greece on several violations of EU environmental law, including the dangerous transportation and dumping of 300 tons of sludge daily from Athens’s sewage treatment plant. «Environmental protection is not a luxury item on the political agenda,» Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom commented. «Greece must improve its practices and make more efforts to implement EU environmental law correctly.» The barrage also involves a request that Athens comply with a European Court of Justice ruling condemning Greece for not having eliminated correctly electrical equipment containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), industrial chemicals that were widely used as flame retardants but cause cancer. In three other cases, the Commission will refer Greece to the court for ignoring earlier warnings involving the handling of sludge from the Psyttaleia wastewater plant, an illegal landfill at Maroulas in the Prassiano ravine (a Natura 2000 site in western Crete) and lack of protection of a rare species of viper on the island of Milos. The Commission has decided to send Greece a final written warning with regard to its failure to pass legislation adopting the Ozone Directive which obliges member states to alert the population to stay inside and close the windows when ground-level ozone concentrations in the air reach certain thresholds. Another final written warning concerns the adoption of a directive establishing an EU trading system for greenhouse gas emissions. First written warnings will be sent regarding a national plan on the number of greenhouse gas emission allowances Greece intends to allocate to its industries so they can participate in the EU trading system; the need for Greece to submit reports on the use of the ozone-damaging pesticide methyl bromide; and the installation of proper wastewater treatment plants for cities and towns with more than 15,000 inhabitants. Regarding Psyttaleia, the Commission noted that the transportation of sludge to the Ano Liosia dump 21 kilometers (13 miles) away endangers human health and pollutes the environment.