Landfills under fire after blaze

Thessaloniki was examining the environmental toll yesterday of a large fire at the city’s landfill, which released harmful toxins into the air and prompted experts to call for the closing of some dumps. The fire at the Tagarades dump raged for four days before firefighters tamed it on Sunday. Yesterday, however, they were still trying to extinguish the remains of the blaze, which burned plastic and flammable material. A number of toxic and carcinogenic gases have been released into the air as a result of the fire, said Costas Fytianos, a chemistry professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University. He also warned that part of the water table has also been polluted. Authorities in the northern port city have long been trying to move the dump, which is on the eastern outskirts, further away from developed areas but no progress has been made on the matter. Fytianos said the environmental damage caused by the fire highlighted the need to improve the city’s waste management. «It is unacceptable that these types of landfills are still being used in a European country,» the professor told Kathimerini. «Residents and local authorities are responsible because nobody wants a landfill near them. As a result, there are hundreds of unmonitored landfills around Greece which are a fire hazard because they produce methane,» he said. Last year, there were 399 fires at garbage dumps, which destroyed some 40 hectares of land. In 2000, landfill fires burned some 530 hectares of land. During the blaze at Tagarades, some 1,000 cubic meters of sewage also seeped out of a basin next to the landfill, flooding two houses and nearby crops, authorities said.