NEWS

Deadline set for decision on sewage

Authorities in northwestern Athens, where the capital’s main landfill is located, were given until the end of the week by the government yesterday to accept a proposal that the city’s mounting sewage pile be disposed of at the dump using a technique which would biodegrade the sludge. Local and regional officials from the area have so far opposed plans to resume the dumping of the treated sewage at the Ano Liosia site and ended a weeklong blockade of the landfill last week. Some 35,000 tons of garbage had built up on Athenian streets as a result. Residents also protested over the weekend but Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, who met with local officials yesterday, assured them that his plan would work. «We respect and accept that local residents have a problem,» he said, «but what we are proposing is organized and realistic and reflects our sensitivity to the problem.» Souflias has proposed that an identical scheme to the one used at Tagarades dump in Thessaloniki be employed, whereby the treated sewage is mixed with earth, leaves and branches to allow it to biodegrade into fertile soil. The officials from Ano Liosia saw the method in action at Tagarades last week. Souflias said that they had a chance to touch the earth and realize that it did not smell badly after going through this process. The minister argued that this is the only viable means of disposing up to 150,000 tons of sludge that has built up at the Psyttaleia treatment plant off Piraeus until a drying unit is built there. Souflias pledged yesterday that the plant would be ready by March 2007 – several months later than originally planned. He added that the construction of three new landfills at Fyli, Grammatiko and Keratea would be speeded up. The projects will be put to tender by September, according to Souflias, but no completion date was given. If authorities accept his proposals, then some 1,200 tons of sewage will undergo the mixing process every day. The minister pleaded with officials to give the proposal a chance and promised that if they were not happy with the outcome by this Christmas, he would stop the transfer of all sewage to Ano Liosia.