Delays, extra cost as waste piles up

The transfer of 70,000 tons of sludge from the islet of Psyttaleia, which houses Athens’s main sewage treatment plant, to Germany will cost some 10 million euros. This will only ease the problem as some 250,000 tons of partially treated sewage are currently piled up on Psyttaleia, off Piraeus. That means that getting rid of all that sludge (which is clearly not a permanent solution as 500-600 tons of sludge are produced every day) would burden the state budget by about 33 million euros. The irony is that the special drying plant which is set to be built on Psyttaleia, a unit similar to the one operating in Germany, will cost a mere 25 million euros, of which 18 million will come from European Union subsidies. Repeated delays, tardiness and poor planning are taking a heavy toll as we will have to pay 33 million euros when we could have gotten away with 7 million. Also, we will have no permanent solution to the problem and we will be in no position to exploit the end product of biological treatment, which can be sold and reused. This is yet another manifestation of a dysfunctional state. Although sludge is piling up and despite the fact that everyone acknowledges the need for and significance of such a project (which can be built with EU funds), the plant will be completed at the end of 2007. That is, after another 300,000 tons of sludge has stacked up, awaiting export. Most of the responsibility for this mess lies with the Socialist administrations. Though they carried out the first two stages in waste treatment, the budget overruns and shoddy construction have undermined the completion of the third stage, which would solve the problem. The conservative administration must learn from the mistakes of the PASOK governments. It must not tolerate any further delays or budget overruns in construction works. The government must solve the problem for good by the end of 2007 and without exceeding the 25-million-euro threshold.