The Thermaic Gulf can be saved

Scientists at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University (AUTH) are optimistic that the Thermaic Gulf can be saved from its pollution problems but only if the state and industry follow their plans. By adopting the 24 measures drafted by the university, the current dramatic degradation of the gulf will end and Thessaloniki will have a new breath of life. This was the conclusion of a study that took more than two years to complete, after being commissioned by the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry. This is the first time the authorities have in their hands a comprehensive study that identifies all the sources polluting the largest gulf in northern Greece. The scientific team, led by Professor Constantinos Fytianos of the Environmental Pollution Control Laboratory, identified a number of sources of pollution, including rivers and streams, drainage channels, tanneries, overflow trenches and inefficient waste treatment plants. Measurements were taken at 50 different points over an expanse stretching from the mouth of the Aliakmonas River to the coastal zone of Nea Michaniona. The study showed that three major rivers, the Axios, the Loudias and the Aliakmonas, along with several streams, are carrying fertilizers, urban waste and industrial effluent into the Thermaic Gulf, causing its slow death. This environmental crime is aggravated by the ongoing pollution from tanneries, oil and petroleum products and waste treatment plants at industries around Kalohori. The study also found high concentrations of heavy metals such as mercury, copper, chromium, lead, cadmium, phosphorus and ammonia. Some 30 percent of the gulf’s environmental problems stem from agricultural activities and the chemicals used in the region. Scientists were puzzled when they found high traces of DDE – a degradation product of DDT – and pesticides that are banned in Greece, concluding that they must be coming from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In the port area especially, the final report underlined that the areas around «all measurement stations can be characterized as azoic,» in other words devoid of organic life. Proposals The measures proposed by the scientists as a matter of priority include immediate improvements to the waste treatment plants at Kalohori and Aggelohori. It is hoped that the full operation of the waste treatment plant at Kalohori will halt the phenomenon of eutrophication (the result of nutrient pollution) that has been seen along the coastline. Since sources of industrial pollution have been identified, the scientific team is requesting the imposition of severe penalties and the revocation of the licenses of all industries that fail to properly treat their waste. The dramatic situation at Kalohori is causing concern among authorities, which have proposed the construction of a canal that will collect the waste along the coastline and empty it into a large tank. In some places close to the tanneries there are areas that are so polluted that the only available option appears to be to cover them over, while at other locations the only thing that can be done, authorities say, is to spray them with special products from time to time in order to minimize the stench.

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