Deadlock on Athens dump

The stench of rubbish grew stronger on the streets of Athens yesterday, as municipal officials failed to find a way out of a bitter sewage disposal dispute that has kept the capital’s only landfill closed since Tuesday. Western Attica prefectural authorities and the Ano Liosia municipal council – the two driving forces behind the open-ended protest – are to meet today to decide on continuing the closure. So far, however, there has been little cause for hope of a speedy breakthrough. Municipal and regional authorities oppose the use of the Ano Liosia rubbish dump as a repository for the hundreds of tons of sludge the capital’s main sewage treatment plant, on the islet of Psyttaleia, off Piraeus, produces on a daily basis. After a 24-hour closure on Tuesday, the officials decided on Wednesday to keep the dump shut indefinitely. But yesterday, Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias said there was nowhere else to send the partially treated sewage, stressing that a temporary Council of State order allows sludge disposal at Ano Liosia. «Nobody can break the law and ignore court decisions, nor can society as a whole be blackmailed because Athens has but the one landfill,» he said. «There is no other solution, nor have any credible alternatives been proposed.» Souflias has pledged the sludge will be mixed with earth, leaves and branches in a biodegrading process that will leave the landfill covered with fertile soil, to be planted with trees. The Liosia site is fast approaching capacity, and is due to be replaced by three new landfills within the next year. Psyttaleia also has its own problems. Past disputes over sludge disposal have caused an estimated 150,000 tons of partially treated sewage to build up on the islet. A meeting of the local officials, convened by Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis yesterday afternoon failed to reach an agreement on how to end the deadlock. Bakoyannis deplored the landfill’s closure, warning that, even should the protest end within the next few days, clearing the accumulated rubbish from the streets of Athens would take a long time. «If the garbage stays on the streets for a week, it will take three weeks to gather it all,» she said. «Our rubbish collectors cannot work miracles.» The situation on the capital’s rubbish-strewn streets was exacerbated by heavy rainfall last night.

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