Emergency environmental situations – such as the recent dispute over transporting treated urban wastewater to the Ano Liosia landfill site in western Attica – just might lead to truly advanced solutions for the management of the sludge. Given the potentially explosive situation in Ano Liosia, the Environment and Public Works Ministry is feverishly studying alternatives, such as the construction of a dewatering plant on the island of Psyttaleia, where the sewage is treated, among other small-scale solutions that can easily be carried out but would also be acceptable to both experts and the community. If this process results in an environmentally sound solution rather than just dumping the waste at another site, then it would be the first time the problem has been addressed in Greece in a way that is in line with European specifications. Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias has made a personal commitment to let the people of Ano Liosia decide whether to allow a plan (even in pilot form) to go ahead by the end of the year to dewater 20 percent of the 700 tons of waste being transported to the landfill site. If the plan is rejected, another solution will have to be found pending the construction of a dewatering plant on Psyttaleia, which is expected to take at least two years to complete. The ministry is racing against the clock to find that alternative. «At present, we are looking at 10-15 alternatives, most of which appear to be sound,» said Thanassis Kouloumbis, the ministry’s general secretary for jointly funded public works. The six-month deadline, however, rules out a number of options. «The main criteria for the choice will be the possibility of obtaining a license, but also the possibility of it being implemented within a short period of time. We are also concerned that any solutions be acceptable to the people; cost is also a consideration,» he added. According to many experts, a combination of smaller solutions would have many benefits, mainly the distribution of the workload. Kouloumbis agrees. «In many European capitals, such as London, there are dozens of organic waste disposal plants that are linked in case of a breakdown. If there is a major breakdown at Psyttaleia, the waste will end up in the sea,» he said. Among the options being considered are composting, dewatering – that is, drying out the sludge to reduce its volume – and incineration. It is considered very important to carry out strict checks on what ends up in the Athens water supply network, given the usual practice, particularly on the part of smaller firms, to dispose of very toxic industrial waste into the network. As a result, the processed sludge cannot be used as fertilizer, given the high content of heavy metals and other dangerous substances. «Psyttaleia is continually under assault from waste such as this that destroys microorganisms, reducing its ability to clean the urban waste,» said Kouloumbis. «The experience of other countries leads to the conclusion that it would take at least 10 years to fully monitor all businesses,» he added.