NEWS

Toxic material left unchecked in Thessaloniki

Hundreds of tons of toxic substances stored at the Fertilizer and Chemical Products company of Thessaloniki pose a great environmental threat to the area after the company said that it is no longer in a position to guarantee the safety of the dangerous materials. The management of the state-owned firm said in a document seen by Kathimerini that due to a sit-in protest by the employees at the plant since January, it cannot guarantee the safekeeping of the dangerous materials. On the site there are more than 900 tons of different toxic substances that have been stored there since the start of the year. Workers that have taken over the factory to protest against the government’s decision to shut it down claim that they have provided the necessary protective measures. «The employees are implementing the safety plan, so there is no danger from the protest,» said Giorgos Amorgianos, the factory manager. An injunction order against the employees also failed as a court said that the workers are trained to take care of the materials. «The (safety) plan is being implemented by the staff which has been trained for this purpose,» said Giorgos Michailidis, head of the factory’s employee group. The government has decided to shut down operations citing financial losses and low competitiveness. In a bid to raise public awareness of their problem, which threatens to send hundreds of workers to the unemployment line, employees have held a number of demonstrations in Athens and Thessaloniki this year. The news of a possible chemical time bomb in Thessaloniki comes about a week after a fire at a solvents plants in Lavrion, south of Athens, caused a massive black toxic cloud which covered the area. According to industry sources, the lack of proper supervision of chemical factories has resulted in more plants posing a threat to public health and the environment. The head of environmental protection at the Thessaloniki Prefecture, Nikolaos Bournis, recommends that the substances either be used or transported to a facility that can guarantee their safety. «In order for the danger of a large scale industrial accident to pass, the dangerous substances will either have to be used in the production process or placed in facilities that have safety features as dictated by law,» Bournis said.