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Cleanup of Asopos river begins September 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment.
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Firms dumping waste into the river will be punished, Minister says

Bulldozers yesterday started clearing up the riverbed of the heavily polluted Asopos, in central Greece, as Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias pledged to purge the toxic water believed to be posing a cancer risk to local residents.

Souflias, who has rebuffed calls by opposition parties and environmentalists for the creation of a separate Environment Ministry, yesterday announced a series of measures to curb pollution in the river. These include inspections on local manufacturers, many of which are believed to be dumping untreated waste into the river, followed by the imposition of fines, or revocation of licenses, in cases of those found to have acted illegally.

Meanwhile, state environment officials are overseeing an initiative to clear rubbish from the riverbed and detect secret pipes allegedly being used by some firms to dispose of their toxic waste. Already 10 manufacturers have been found to be illegally disposing of toxic refuse. This number is expected to rise once officials determine which firms have illegally installed the pipes.

Souflias, who described the initiative as an «important national project,» launched the action after tests on underground water reserves in Viotia and Attica revealed high levels of carcinogenic depleted chromium.

Earlier this month, the Municipality of Oropos, north of Athens, which draws its drinking water from the Asopos, instructed some of its residents to stop consuming tap water after tests found it to be toxic. Residents in nearby Oinofyta have also been advised to avoid drinking tap water for the same reason.

Last month, Souflias’s Ministry agreed to cooperate with the Athens water board and local authorities on the construction of a new pipeline that will draw water from a local reservoir rather than the Asopos.

In addition to the Asopos drive, the Ministry is planning initiatives to clean up the Kifissos River and Lake Koroneia, sources said. Last week a Thessaloniki prosecutor launched a preliminary investigation into conditions at Lake Koroneia after more than 200 birds were found dead nearby. The prosecutor wants to determine why a project to protect the lake has been delayed, even though 24 million in funding has been made available.

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