EC raises a stink over dump

The European Commission yesterday moved towards taking Greece to court over its failure to clean up an illegal rubbish dump in Crete for which the government has already been fined almost 5 million euros. Greece was sent a final warning letter yesterday because, the Commission said, the government is endangering human health and could be harming the environment by not clearing the now-defunct Kouroupitos landfill site near Hania and the temporary waste-storage site at Messomouri, which replaced it. In summer 2000, Greece became the first member state to be fined by the European Court of Justice for persistently ignoring EU legislation, by operating the Kouroupitos dump. The court fined Greece 20,000 euros a day until the site was closed down in February 2001, which meant a total of some 4.7 million euros in fines. However, independent experts found in 2003 that, at the Kouroupitos dump, much of the soil once used to cover the site had been washed away by rain, while at the Messomouri site high levels of methane gas were found and untreated liquid from the site was flowing into the sea. Greece received an initial warning letter in April last year, but its lack of action means it could face the European Court again if it does not respond satisfactorily to the Commission’s fresh warning. Meanwhile, in a response yesterday to a question by Synaspismos Left Coalition MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the Commission was unhappy with the state of the sewage treatment plant on the islet of Psyttaleia near Piraeus and was still awaiting Greece’s response to the last warning it was sent in 2003. Over 100,000 tons of sludge have built up at the site.

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