Greece lags on wastewater

The European Court of Justice is to rule this week on how to punish Greece for repeatedly violating directives on wastewater management. Greece’s main transgression is its failure to provide 24 small towns – including many tourist resorts – with adequate waste-processing units, an obligation it has faced as an EU state since 2000. In a ruling due on Thursday, the court is expected to issue a strong warning that could lead to a heavy fine. The affected areas include much of eastern Attica, a large section of Thessaloniki, the Cretan port of Iraklion, Nafpaktos, Igoumenitsa and Tripolis. In parts of eastern Attica, such as Koropi and the Thriasio Plain, near Elefsina, residents reportedly have taken it upon themselves to dispose of water from their washing machines and tanks into street drains. According to the Environment and Public Works Ministry, Greece has 160 waste-processing units, dozens of which are believed to be non-operational due to poor design. Another 50 such units are under construction, the ministry says. Another problem is the absence of any monitoring organization to check that existing units are operating properly. «The real question is whether processing units are operating and how well,» said Andreas Andreadakis, the director of the National Technical University of Athens’s sanitary technology laboratory. Meanwhile, as precious water resources dwindle, Greece is under pressure to recycle used water, including that produced by waste-processing units. At present, most water processed in such units is subsequently dumped – mostly into the sea and in rivers – while other European countries are increasingly reusing their «dirty» water in irrigation and industry. Israel has implemented measures that, it claims, will lead to recycled water being used for 100 percent of all irrigation and industrial purposes by 2025. Germany and France have also made significant progress in this area. Greece, however, continues to squander 84 percent of its clean water on irrigation and has failed to undertake any major initiatives to recycle its used water.