Trash war escalates

As more than 10,000 tons of rubbish mount up on the city’s sidewalks due to the shutdown of Attica’s only landfill, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias accused striking employees of being pawns in a game of waste management that involves tens of millions of euros. In response to a recent editorial published in Kathimerini on Athens’s rubbish problems, Souflias said in a letter to the newspaper yesterday that the strike called by employees early this week is unacceptable and serves certain interests. «It is unfair to overlook the fact that games worth tens of millions of euros are being played in connection to the rubbish issue,» Souflias said. The local authorities in northwestern Attica are financially compensated for the presence of a dump in their area. Workers at the Ano Liosia landfill walked off the job on Monday night, saying that the treated sewage being dumped there makes working conditions dangerous to their health. Souflias pointed out in his letter that for a long time the sludge was being deposited at the landfill without any problems. «All these years, the sewage was being dumped there and now the employees apparently cannot work with it for two more months even though it is now being treated,» Souflias said. The government has pledged that the transfer of sludge to the landfill will stop by the end of the year. The minister’s words, however, will hardly comfort Athenians who have been instructed by municipalities to keep their rubbish indoors and away from overflowing dumpsters. With rainy weather expected this weekend, the growing rubbish piles are likely to be washed away and block roadside drainage, resulting in immediate flooding across Athens – an all too familiar sight for the city’s residents. The conservative government appears to be following a hardline stance on the issue, refusing to enter into any kind of talks with the employees. The workers have put forth a proposal suggesting that the sewage be stored in a defunct oil tanker off the islet of Psyttaleia, near Piraeus, where the sludge is treated. Workers met yesterday and decided to extend their protest action but have not indicated how long the strike may last.