Concern over sludge overflow

Tons of partly treated sewage are mounting up on an islet close to Pireaus, threatening to contaminate the Saronic Gulf, as authorities look to alleviate the problem by exporting the sludge to Sudan, the Piraeus Prefecture said yesterday. The Athens Water Company (EYDAP) said yesterday that it is considering moving the sludge 2,700 kilometers to a treatment plant in Sudan until Greece develops its own drying unit. A team of prefectural health officials yesterday visited the islet of Psyttaleia, where Attica’s only sewage treatment plant is located, and found that the equipment has been put in place to ship the sludge to the country in northeast Africa. «The solution of transporting the sludge with a tanker is not just being examined, it is being implemented,» sources at the prefecture said. The issue of where EYDAP dumps the sludge has become a controversial one for the conservative government, after deciding to transfer the sewage to the Ano Liosia landfill until another solution is found. The move angered workers and resulted in a nine-day strike in September and October that caused rubbish to pile up around Athens. The landfill workers argued that the sewage made work conditions hazardous. Transporting the waste is expected to cost state-controlled EYDAP between 50 and 80 euros per ton. A prefectural official told Kathimerini that three of the sewage trenches on the islet are already full and that time is running out fast for the fourth one. «The first three are full and threatening to overflow while the last one has about two months to go (before filling up),» the source said. A team from the European Commission’s Environment Committee will visit the islet tomorrow to be briefed about developments concerning the plant as concerns mount over a possible ecological disaster authorities keep adding to the 170,000 tons of sludge which are already being stored at the site.

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