Athens’s waste management crisis mounts

Athens’s main waste dump has reached its capacity and city officials, fearing it has become a health hazard, said on Tuesday it will soon be closed to reduce the risk of toxic fires and landslides. The sprawling Greek capital of nearly 5 million uses one main dump, which filled up about two months ago, and officials say there is a danger of a landslide or a fire that might release cancer-causing dioxins into the atmosphere or water supply. «We cannot take it any more. We have had the landfill here for decades. Now it is overflowing and our health is in danger,» Dimitris Kambolis, deputy mayor of the Municipality of Liosia where the site is located, told Reuters on Tuesday. «It was initially designed to take in 500 tons (per day) but now takes in more than 5,000 tons daily,» he said. Three days ago, the municipality closed the main section of the landfill and warned it could accommodate rubbish for only another month-and-a-half. «What happens after that is a question for the central government to answer,» Kambolis said. Located only about 10 kilometers (6 miles) northwest of Athens, the site has been closed in the past, leading to huge piles of uncollected garbage rotting in city streets for days. The government has given no indication of how it intends to solve the problem. Earlier plans to use other locations further from the city were blocked by residents near the proposed sites. Environment Ministry officials could not be reached for comment. The mayor of Athens, whose residents contribute the bulk of the garbage, refused to comment. Liosia residents were planning to take to the streets today in a rally to highlight the health hazard of the dump, Kambolis said. A fire in a landfill in northern Greece last year released large quantities of dioxins from unprocessed and toxic garbage, including hospital waste, polluting air and water. Dozens of nearby cattle and crop farms were forced to close because their animals and plants had absorbed dioxins, which have been linked to birth defects and brain damage. «Imagine a fire like that near the capital,» said Greenpeace Greece director Nikos Charalambidis. «The more garbage comes in, the less time for heavy machinery to compress it. That poses increased danger of fires and landslides.»