Athens garbage trucks in action as sewage protest suspended

Athens refuse collectors were put on 24-hour shifts yesterday to start clearing some 35,000 tons of trash that had piled up on the capital’s streets due to a weeklong blockage of the city’s only landfill. This followed the decision yesterday afternoon by northwestern Athens local and regional authorities to stop their closure of the Ano Liosia dump, which was launched last Tuesday in protest at the local disposal of partially processed sludge from the capital’s main sewage-treatment plant. However, at a meeting convened by prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos, who had threatened legal action if the protest continued, the officials insisted that they would not allow sludge from the plant at Psyttaleia, an islet off Piraeus, to be dumped at Ano Liosia. The sewage-treatment plant, run by the Athens Water Supply and Sewage Company (EYDAP), already has a severe overflow problem as an estimated 150,000 tons of partially treated sludge have accumulated there due to previous disputes over its disposal at the landfill. Western Piraeus residents, who complain of an unbearable stench from Psyttaleia, are planning protests over the accumulated sludge. Northwestern Athens officials also decided yesterday to meet again in nine days’ time, to reassess the situation. While conceding that people living in the vicinity of the Ano Liosia dump – under Mt Parnitha on the capital’s northwestern fringes – are justified in complaining about the sludge, the government insists it has no alternative but to dump the sewage there until a drying plant can be built at Psyttaleia. This is scheduled to happen in 2006. Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias has campaigned hard to persuade protesters that a new way of disposing of the sludge – which until now was dumped raw – will solve the problems of the unbearable stench and occasional leakage Ano Liosia residents complain of. This method will involve mixing the sewage with earth, leaves and branches to allow the sludge to biodegrade into fertile soil, which will then be planted with trees as the dump goes out of service. The Ano Liosia site is due to be replaced within the next 12 months by three new landfills at Fyli, Grammatiko and Keratea. Yesterday, Deputy Environment and Public Works Minister Themistoklis Xanthopoulos told Parliament that work on two of the new dumps could start as early as September. Meanwhile, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis said the city’s force of 2,000 rubbish collectors and 130 garbage trucks would be working 24-hour shifts for at least two weeks to clear the trash-laden streets. Priority will be accorded to areas around schools and hospitals.

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