Cleaner Asopos on way

Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias yesterday heralded in a series of measures to protect residents living near the heavily polluted Asopos River in central Greece. The measures include the construction of a drainage network to channel toxic waste from local manufacturers away from the river, and the creation of a new irrigation network to supply residents of Oinofyta, Tanagra and Avlida with water from the River Mornos. Souflias, who met with local authority officials from the affected areas, also called for the creation of two pollution-measuring stations in Oinofyta and in eastern Attica to monitor the presence of toxic substances in the river water. Tests on underground reserves in both areas have revealed high levels of potentially carcinogenic depleted chromium. The minister also called for the delineation of «protected zones» in the area of the Asopos and for stricter restrictions on the activities of local manufacturers as well as harsher penalties for offenders. Last week a prosecutor ordered a probe to establish which firms have been dumping chemical waste into the Asopos. More than 10 manufacturers have been found to be illegally disposing of toxic refuse. They face heavy fines and the revocation of their operating licenses. The number of offenders is expected to rise once officials determine which firms have illegally installed secret pipes for disposing of their waste. Local officials said they were satisfied, overall, with the additional measures heralded yesterday. But they called for constant inspections on local water quality and a comprehensive cleanup of the area. Regional MPs also called for prefectural departments to get staff boosts so that the new measures can be implemented quickly and effectively. In a related development, tests in Ileia prefecture showed that local water in 50 municipalities has been polluted following damage to the irrigation network due to August’s fires.