Pollution of air and sea plagues Thessaloniki

THESSALONIKI – Thessaloniki will have difficult times in the future if measures are not taken to deal with pollution of the city’s air and nearby sea. Recent measurements show that, the authorities’ assertions notwithstanding, water sediment in the Thermaic Gulf still contains higher concentrations of metal pollutants than any other gulf in northern Greece. Experts and state officials had reckoned on new anti-pollution technology in motor vehicles to reduce pollutants that create smog, but the steep increase in traffic, particularly for recreational purposes, seems to have canceled out any benefits from new automobile technology and improved fuels. At an event jointly organized by the deputy mayor’s environmental office and Thessaloniki University’s chemistry department on October 6 to discuss air and water pollution, municipal environmental chief Mr Petrakakis presented the results of the Municipal Air Pollution Monitoring Network’s measurements since 1989. Petrakakis said the nature of smog in Thessaloniki had changed in the 1990s from smoke- and fog-based to photochemical. There has been a reduction in primary atmospheric pollutants downtown, and an increase in photochemical smog, of which ozone is an indicator, on the outskirts of town. The reduction is due to measures implemented and action taken by the state, such as the construction of the ring road, improvement in fuel quality, the withdrawal of old motor vehicles, imports of cars with catalytic converters, and the use of natural gas. «What contributes to the new and potentially dangerous photochemical smog is prolonged sunlight, the warm climate and the ever-increasing fleet of vehicles with the consequent worsening of traffic conditions,» said Petrakakis, adding that preventive measures had to be taken at once. The chief pollutant in Thessaloniki is still airborne particles, the levels of which exceed EU limits and are higher than those in Athens. Professors Constantinos Fytianos and V. Dimitriadis warned that the results of research into pollution in Thermaic Gulf were «not reassuring.» Monitoring has shown that the gulf is still a repository of industrial waste, agricultural chemicals, and pollutants deposited by the Axios, Aliakmon and Loudias rivers, while recently the waste-processing system has been malfunctioning. Some 10,000 factories and workshops operate in the greater Thessaloniki area; waste from the Diavaton area alone amounts to 20,000 cubic meters a day. Measurements taken at tanneries revealed that chromium (which is highly toxic to marine organisms) was twice the permitted level. Professor Fytianos told Kathimerini that short-term measures were essential, citing essential needs such as removal of the tanneries, establishment of organized industrial zones, documentation of pollution sources and implementation of a plan of action to save the Thermaic Gulf.