Thessaloniki finds stopgap trash solution

With thousands of tons of trash rotting on the streets of Thessaloniki, local authority officials decided yesterday to continue using the saturated Tagarades landfill until the end of next month as a temporary cleanup measure. A new landfill in the district of Mavrorachi, which protesting residents have been blocking for 10 days, would also be used on a trial basis over this same period, according to the agreement between 28 mayors and municipal councilors. The decision was not unanimous. Those mayors whose residents live closest to the two dumps were expressing their objections to the move until late last night. But they have reportedly received assurances from Deputy Development Minister Stavros Kalafatis and regional general secretary Giorgos Tsiotras that the sprawling landfill will definitely close by the end of July. Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos said the action was imperative. «Everyone must realize that the health of the citizens of Thessaloniki is the most important issue here,» he said, noting that certain individuals were benefiting from the current state of affairs. The marathon debate between local authorities on the issue yesterday was marred by tension, harsh verbal exchanges and a lot of buck-passing. Papageorgopoulos said the Environment and Public Works Ministry was partially to blame for the current situation as it had delayed approval of experts’ studies for local landfills. Yesterday some 20,000 tons of pungent garbage littered the streets of Thessaloniki. Locals are bracing for the stench to get worse over the next couple of days as temperatures are forecast to hit 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit). Residents were complaining that the garbage has already been infested by rodents and that it poses a serious public health risk. The sight of Thessaloniki’s trash-strewn streets was reminiscent of the capital early last year when Athens’s main landfill at Ano Liosia reached saturation and household garbage was abandoned on street corners.