Dumps land Greece in EU court

The European Commission (EC) said yesterday that it was taking Greece to court for its failure to make safe two garbage dumps in Crete and to find ways of disposing of hazardous waste other than in illegal landfills. The Commission sent a final warning letter in April because it felt the government was endangering human health and the environment by not clearing the defunct Kouroupitos landfill site near Hania and the temporary waste storage site at Messomouri, which replaced it. Brussels decided yesterday that Greece had not done enough to remedy the situation despite reassurances from Athens earlier this year that programs to clean up both sites had been approved. Greece’s referral to court is the culmination of five years during which the EU has hounded the government over its failure to do anything about the environmentally damaging effects of the Kouroupitos dump. In 2000, Greece became the first member state to be fined by the European Court of Justice for ignoring EU legislation, by operating the Kouroupitos dump. Greece was fined a total of some 4.7 million euros. However, independent experts found in 2003 that, at the Kouroupitos dump, the soil used to cover the site had been washed away by rain, while at the Messomouri site high levels of methane gas were found and untreated liquid from the site was flowing into the sea. The EC also referred Greece to court yesterday over its failure to come up with a system to deal with hazardous waste, which Brussels said was being dumped untreated in almost 1,500 illegal landfills around the country. The EC said the dumps offer no protection to humans or the environment and that Greece has failed – at least over the last seven years – to take any action to improve the situation.