Asopos pollution levels rising

More than 750 factories dump their waste into the Asopos River, in central Greece’s Viotia region, as manufacturers take advantage of legal loopholes and continue to heavily pollute the area, according to evidence seen by Kathimerini. The river, which supplies 10,000 local residents with drinking water, has been found to have dangerously high levels of chromium, lead and nitrate – all potentially carcinogenic. Legal proceedings have been launched against 13 manufacturers for dumping their unprocessed waste into the river; however, local officials are pessimistic about the outcome. «Either way, whatever fine is imposed will not be paid,» said Thanassis Panteloglou, president of the Institute of Regional Development and the Environment. «Industrial firms always find ways to avoid paying. One manufacturer took the issue to the Council of State and claimed to have been informed of the fine in an incorrect manner. The fine was waived by the court,» he added. The case, scheduled to take place on May 5, has been postponed five times but is likely to be set back again, resulting in the lapsing of statutes of limitations relating to the offense. Apart from polluting drinking water and irrigation channels, the Asopos River also empties into the southern Evia Gulf which has a number of popular beaches frequented by locals and tourists in the summertime. Local municipal officials have taken more tests to determine the water quality and sources said that nitrate levels are again well above legal limits but the government appears reluctant to act on the findings. Experts said that part of the problem lies in a 1969 presidential decree that defines the Asopos River as being a drain for «processed» industrial waste. A report from the National Technical University of Athens in 1996 has stressed the need for a central waste processing plant in the area but the Environment Ministry has failed to deliver on a December 2005 promise to adopt the university’s proposal and build the plant.

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