Clock ticking on sludge problem

After local authorities from northwestern Attica yesterday failed to overturn a court ruling allowing the dumping of sewage at the Ano Liosia landfill, sources told Kathimerini the government was in a race against time to find another way to dispose of the sludge. Some 150,000 tons of waste have built up at Athens’s only sewage treatment plant on the islet of Psyttaleia near Piraeus. Sources revealed that if the waste removal from the site is delayed by even 10 to 15 days, then the surrounding waters of the Saronic Gulf could become polluted. Ten days ago, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias gave the order to begin dumping the sewage at the Ano Liosia landfill in northwestern Athens as a short-term solution to the city’s trash overflow problems. Local authorities and residents objected angrily to the move. On the first day of trash dumping, protesters clashed with riot police guarding the landfill. The disposal method being used mixes the sludge with earth, leaves and wood to allow it to biodegrade into fertile soil. Souflias says this is totally safe and odorless. But as the Athens Water and Sewage Company (EYDAP), which runs Psytaleia, seeks to get rid of increasing amounts of the sewage (800 tons were transferred yesterday), questions are being raised about whether the resources exist to carry out the biodegrading process. For example, some 300 tons of wood cuttings are needed each day to mix with the sludge, and there are doubts whether this amount of timber can be sourced without the cost of the project skyrocketing beyond the contractor-set price ceiling of 41 euros per ton. Souflias has said that if, by year’s end, locals are still unhappy with the sewage being taken to Ano Liosia, he will stop the process. Until then, the plan is to transfer up to 1,200 tons of sludge a day. But there are concerns there is not enough space at the dump to store and filter this amount through the biodegrading process. The Council of State yesterday rejected an appeal by local authorities to overturn its previous decision allowing the transfer of sewage from Psyttaleia to Ano Liosia.

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