NEWS

Asopos water highly toxic

The number of cancer-related deaths in Oinofyta, central Greece, has quadrupled over the past 20 years as hundreds of manufacturers in the region continue to dump toxic waste into the Asopos River, Kathimerini has discovered. The river, which supplies some 30,000 local residents with drinking water, has been found to have dangerously high levels of depleted chromium, lead and nitrate – all potentially carcinogenic. Tests have revealed that the water’s chromium content is 400,000 times above the permissible maximum level. «Water bore samples from Oinofyta display exceptionally high concentrations of nitrates and chromium,» the General Chemical State Laboratory noted in a report accompanying the results of the most recent tests. Meanwhile the municipal death register at Oinofyta shows that cancer accounts for 32 percent of local deaths, as compared to 6 percent in 1989. In most cases, cancer-related fatalities were found to have been provoked by the ingestion of toxic substances. To date no tests have been carried out to determine the extent to which the Asopos pollution is affecting the health of residents, who use water pumped from the river for drinking and cooking. The water is also used by regional food manufacturing firms. But it is thought that the real damage is being caused by heavy industry. There are hundreds of electroplating workshops, paint manufacturers and other factories which dump their waste into the Asopos. According to experts, the presence of depleted chromium in the water is particularly worrying as it is a chemical that accumulates in the human organism instead of being gradually expelled. The chemicals being pumped into the Asopos are also believed to have wreaked havoc on nearby cultivations. The sites closest to the river cultivate carrots, the only crop that appears able to withstand the high level of soil pollution. Last month, representatives of six manufacturers were found guilty of polluting the Asopos and fined. But in the past, producers have taken advantage of legal loopholes to avoid paying fines and continue dumping untreated waste.