Sanidas gets tough on quarries

Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas intervened yesterday to launch an investigation into two quarries at Markopoulo, east of Athens, which were shut down last year for environmental reasons, but which are in fact still operating, as revealed last week by Kathimerini and Skai TV and Radio. Sanidas yesterday asked deputy prosecutor Antonis Eleftherianos to conduct a preliminary investigation to find out whether quarrying is still taking place, despite court rulings prohibiting it. Sanidas has also asked the police to conduct regular checks on the quarries and given instructions for the arrest of company officials on the spot if machinery is found to be operating illegally. A Skai TV helicopter that hovered over the quarries yesterday recorded footage of activity at the sites. Similar images, showing people working at the quarries, mining machines operating and trucks transporting material, were recorded last week, apparently prompting Sanidas to take action. Last August, one year after Greece’s highest administrative court issued its ruling, officials from the Prefecture of Eastern Attica supposedly shut down the two quarries. The Council of State ruled that the Latomeia Markopoulou and Stavrou Latomeia quarries should cease operations because they were damaging the local environment and residents’ health. However, it appears that authorities are unable to ensure that the quarries remain shut. In November 2006, the Public Works and Environment Ministry fined the two quarrying firms a total of 2 million euros for violating environmental laws in the largest penalty imposed for this type of violation. A study by the Athens Observatory found that dust particles emitted by the quarrying meant that air pollution at Markopoulo was equal to that in the most heavily polluted parts of Athens.