Αυστηρές συστάσεις-κόλαφο προς την ελληνική κυβέρνηση, υιοθέτησε στην Έκθεση της Επιτροπής Αναφορών για τους ΧΥΤΑ στην Ελλάδα.
ΧΥΤΑ Γραμματικού: Η χωροθέτηση δεν έγινε με επιστημονικά κριτήρια. Επανέλεγχος από μηδενική βάση του υπό κατασκευή ΧΥΤΑ
ΧΥΤΑ Φυλής: Μνημείο περιβαλλοντικού χάους, αρρώστιας και ανθρώπινου πόνου. Να γίνουν άμεσα Τοξικολογικές και Επιδημιολογικές μελέτες
ΧΥΤΑ Λευκίμμης: Προτείνουμε την εφαρμογή της πρόληψης και τη μη λειτουργία του έργου
ΧΥΤΑ Καρβουναρίου: Αν υπάρχουν διαρροές στα υπόγεια ύδατα, το έργο πρέπει θα να κλείσει αμέσως
«Στον υπό κατασκευή ΧΥΤΑ Γραμματικού φαίνεται ότι τα γεωλογικά χαρακτηριστικά δεν είναι κατάλληλα λόγω αστάθειας και υδατοπερατότητας του εδάφους»… Να διακοπεί η χρηματοδότηση του ΧΥΤΑ και των συνοδευτικών του έργων, αν δεν πραγματοποιηθεί αναθεώρηση της άδειας κατασκευής του, σύμφωνα με τις προδιαγραφές της εξαιρετικά σημαντικής κοινοτικής Οδηγίας 2008/1/ΕΚ της λεγόμενης IPPC, που απαιτεί τον επανέλεγχο του έργου από μηδενική βάση.
Τις διαπιστώσεις αυτές, που ανατρέπουν τα μέχρι σήμερα δεδομένα, κάνει στην Απόφασή της, η Επιτροπή Αναφορών του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου, η οποία είχε στείλει Διερευνητική Αποστολή στην Ελλάδα το Σεπτέμβριο του 2013, μετά από αίτημα/καταγγελία 2.250 πολιτών του Δήμου Μαραθώνα.
Ανάλογες αυστηρές συστάσεις, για κακή χωροθέτηση, κατασκευαστικά λάθη και κακή λειτουργία όπως αυτές για το Γραμματικού, υιοθετηθήκαν και για την Φυλή, την Μεγαλόπολη, το Καρβουνάρι Θεσπρωτίας, και τη Λευκίμμη Κέρκυρας.
Πιο συγκεκριμένα, στην οριστική Έκθεση Πόρισμα που δημοσιεύτηκε σήμερα, περιλαμβάνονται συστάσεις προς τις Ελληνικές Αρχές και την Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή για μέτρα που πρέπει να ληφθούν για την προστασία του περιβάλλοντος στις συγκεκριμένες περιοχές που διερευνήθηκαν.
Αναλυτικότερα, για τις επιμέρους περιοχές, οι κυριότερες Συστάσεις που απεύθυνε η Επιτροπή Αναφορών, έχουν ως εξής:
ΧΥΤΑ Γραμματικού: Η Έκθεση στα Συμπεράσματά της τονίζει ότι « η χωροθέτηση των ΧΥΤΑ στις περιπτώσεις που εξετάστηκαν, είναι το λιγότερο προβληματική, καθώς συνεπάγεται κινδύνους ρύπανσης των υδάτων (υπόγειων και επιφανειακών, σε κοιλάδες, ποτάμια και θάλασσα). Τα γεωλογικά χαρακτηριστικά κάποιων έργων δεν φαίνεται να είναι κατάλληλα, λόγω αστάθειας και/ ή υδατοπερατότητας του εδάφους, όπως στο Γραμματικό, που η δύσκολη πρόσβαση σε κάποια σημεία, αυξάνει επιπλέον το κόστος της διαχείρισης και την ρύπανση. Η επιλογή, δεν έγινε με αντικειμενικά (επιστημονικά) επαληθεύσιμα κριτήρια, αλλά ήταν στις περισσότερες περιπτώσεις μια πολιτική απόφαση σε συνδυασμό με έλλειψη διορατικότητας και/ ή άγνοια. Στην πραγματικότητα η καταλληλότητα του χώρου, έγινε προσπάθεια να αιτιολογηθεί εκ των υστέρων, μετά την χωροθέτηση, χρησιμοποιώντας ως μέσο, τεχνικές μελέτες».
Με βάση και το παραπάνω, στις Συστάσεις που γίνονται προς τις Ελληνικές Αρχές και την Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή, η Επιτροπή Αναφορών τονίζει:
«Επιπλέον, κάθε αναθεώρηση των ήδη δεσμευμένων (2007-2013) και των δυνητικά νέων (2014-2020) πόρων για χρηματοδότηση από την ΕΕ, θα πρέπει να υπόκειται σε μια αλλαγή της προσέγγισης υπό αυτή την έννοια, και κυρίως να εκπληρώνει τις απαιτήσεις την ισχύουσας περιβαλλοντικής νομοθεσίας της ΕΕ και της νομοθεσίας για την διαχείριση απορριμμάτων. Αυτό ισχύει ιδίως στην περίπτωση του Γραμματικού, όπου, κατά την επιβαλλόμενη από την ευρωπαϊκή νομοθεσία (Οδηγία 2008/1/ΕΚ, IPPC) αναθεώρηση της ΜΠΕ και κατ’ επέκταση της Απόφασης Έγκρισης Περιβαλλοντικών Όρων (όρος που ισοδυναμεί με τον όρο Άδεια Κατασκευής), η νεότερη κοινοτική νομοθεσία και οι Βέλτιστες Διαθέσιμες Τεχνικές θα πρέπει να ληφθούν υπόψη »
Σημειώνεται ότι η διαδικασία αδειοδότησης ενός έργου, βάση της Οδηγίας 2008/1/ΕΚ «Σχετικά με την ολοκληρωμένη πρόληψη και έλεγχο της ρύπανσης», απαιτεί την εφαρμογή των Βέλτιστων Διαθέσιμων Τεχνικών και πρέπει να γίνεται τόσο στα υπό κατασκευή όσο και στα ήδη κατασκευασμένα έργα, δεν είναι δηλαδή μία τυπική διαδικασία, αλλά απαιτεί τον επανέλεγχο του έργου από μηδενική βάση.
Ταυτόχρονα, η Επιτροπή Αναφορών, παρεμβαίνοντας στο θέμα που έχει δημιουργηθεί με τις πολιτικές παρεμβάσεις που καταγγέλθηκε ότι έγιναν εις βάρος των Επιθεωρητών Περιβάλλοντος, οι οποίοι με Πόρισμά τους κατέδειξαν τα τεράστια σφάλματα στην χωροθέτηση του ΧΥΤΑ Γραμματικού, τονίζει ότι, «είναι κρίσιμο να επιτραπεί στους Επιθεωρητές Περιβάλλοντος να ολοκληρώσουν τις εργασίες και το Πόρισμά τους ανεξάρτητα και έγκαιρα, έτσι ώστε αποτελεσματικές αποφάσεις να ληφθούν χωρίς αδικαιολόγητες καθυστερήσεις».
ΧΥΤΑ Φυλής: Για τη Φυλή, η Έκθεση της Επιτροπής Αναφορών σημειώνει ότι, «Λαμβάνοντας υπόψη ότι έχουν κατατεθεί αναφορές πολιτών για την απολύτως απαράδεκτη κατάσταση στην Φυλή, τις οποίες θα εξετάσουμε το συντομότερο δυνατό και ότι η κατάσταση του περιβάλλοντος στη Φυλή είναι ένα μνημείο περιβαλλοντικού χάους, αρρώστιας και ανθρώπινου πόνου, τουλάχιστον για τις επόμενες 3 γενιές. Στο μεταξύ, ζητάμε από τις Ελληνικές αρχές και την Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή, να προωθήσουν άμεσα την πραγματοποίηση Τοξικολογικής, Επιδημιολογικής μελέτης, από ανεξάρτητους διεθνείς φορείς στον πληθυσμό του δήμου Φυλής».
ΧΥΤΑ Λευκίμμης: Περιλήφθηκε Σύσταση για τον ΧΥΤΑ Λευκίμμης, που έχει ως εξής: «Λαμβάνοντας υπόψη τις σοβαρές ανησυχίες που εκφράστηκαν από ειδικευμένα γεωλογικά ινστιτούτα, για τον κίνδυνο ρύπανσης του υδροφόρου ορίζοντα από τη λειτουργία του ΧΥΤΑ Λευκίμμης, και λαμβάνοντας υπόψη τα ευρήματα στο πεδίο, Επικαλούμαστε την αρχή της πρόληψης και ζητάμε να διεξαχθεί, κατάλληλη τεχνική μελέτη στο πεδίο, από ανεξάρτητους ειδικευμένους επιστήμονες, πριν γίνει οποιαδήποτε άλλη ενέργεια»… «Σε σχέση με την Λευκίμμη, που είναι επίσης τοποθετημένη στην μέση μιας αγροτικής περιοχής και συγκεκριμένα σε περιοχή με ελαιόδεντρα, και λαμβάνοντας υπόψη τις σοβαρές δυσλειτουργίες σε εν λειτουργία ΧΥΤΑ και τον κίνδυνο για σοβαρά περιστατικά και τους κινδύνους που περιγράφονται σε μελέτη γεωλογικού ινστιτούτου, προτείνουμε την εφαρμογή της αρχής της πρόληψης και την μη λειτουργία του έργου».
ΧΥΤΑ Καρβουναρίου: «Στο Γραμματικό και στο Καρβουνάρι γεωτρήσεις για την συλλογή δειγμάτων υδάτων πρέπει να διανοιχτούν, για να προσδιοριστεί αν υπάρχουν διαρροές στα υπόγεια ύδατα και άρα κίνδυνος για την δημόσια υγεία. Τα αποτελέσματα των δειγμάτων πρέπει να γίνουν διαθέσιμα στο κοινό. Πρέπει να γίνει παύση και να προσδιοριστεί η έκταση της ρύπανσης των υπογείων υδάτων. Σε περίπτωση που ο κίνδυνος για την δημόσια υγεία γίνει φανερός, τα έργα θα πρέπει να κλείσουν αμέσως».
Μεγαλόπολη: Στα συμπεράσματα της Έκθεσης, σημειώνεται ότι «Το έργο στην Μεγαλόπολη, είναι χαρακτηριστικό παράδειγμα της κριτικής στάσης των πολιτών, καθώς η δημόσια διαβούλευση και οι μη-αξιόπιστες εξηγήσεις, δεν ήταν αρκετές για να πείσουν τους πολίτες να εγκαταλείψουν τις αμφιβολίες τους. Αυτό φυσικά μπορεί να αποδοθεί και στην αδιαφανή προσέγγιση των προηγούμενων δεκαετιών από τις κρατικές αρχές και τις πρακτικές που λήφθηκαν κλεισμένων των θυρών με Μελέτες Περιβαλλοντικών Επιπτώσεων copy- paste, αφήνοντας το κοινό απληροφόρητο…»
Τέλος, η Επιτροπή Αναφορών, απευθυνόμενη με αυστηρό πνεύμα προς την Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή, την καλεί «να παρεμβαίνει σύμφωνα με την υποχρέωση που έχει, όταν υπάρχουν ενδείξεις για πρόδηλα σφάλματα στην μελέτη και κατασκευή συγχρηματοδοτούμενων έργων, πριν η υλοποίησή τους βλάψει το περιβάλλον και συμβάλει στην κατασπατάληση πόρων».
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT 2009 – 2014
Committee on Petitions
on Fact Finding Mission to Greece from 18 to 20 September 2013, concerning waste management in Attica, Peloponnese, Thesprotia and Corfu
Committee on Petitions Members:
Carlos José Iturgaiz Angulo, (EPP, ES, Vice-chairman of the Petitions Committee, Leader of the delegation)
Gerald Ηäfner (Greens, EFA, DE)
Marino Baldini (S&D, HR)
Chryssoula Paliadeli (S&D, GR, Vice-chairman of the Petitions Committee)
Nikolaos Salavrakos (EFD, GR)
Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL, GR)
The decision of the Committee to visit Greece was based on a number of petitions received from Greek citizens, indicating serious concerns about waste management facilities in various parts of the country. The Committee was and is aware that such issues concern the entire Greek territory in one way or another, and this can be attributed partly to the inability of national authorities to fully implement legal obligations based upon EU environmental law which has the objective of preserving the environment and protecting citizens’ health, but partly also to the way that waste management facilities, and in particular landfills – which sadly remain the virtually sole way of disposing of waste in Greece – were constructed and operated in Greece. In other words the size of the current problems faced by citizens and political authorities derive from late implementation on the one hand, and the historical legacy on the other. Only in the last few years has there been a real effort to confront such issues and therefore in the rush to catch up it is apparent that further problems emerge.
This visit was organised on the basis of petitions 0078/2007 by Mavroudis Voridis and 0573/2011 by Konstantinos Papadigenopoulos on the landfill currently under construction in Grammatiko (north-east Attica), 0978/2008 by Panagiotis Bouras on Megalopoli, Arcadia (central Peloponnese), 1152/2010 by Georgios Toussas on environmentally damaging activities in Ermionis (eastern Peloponnese) and 0212/2008 by Mr. Ioannis Papadopoulos on the landfills in Karvounari Thesprotia, Epirus and Lefkimmi, Corfu (north-western Greece).
It is important to place things in perspective and in context; Greece is a country of almost 11 million (10.815.197) inhabitants. According to the 2011 census , approximately 35 % of the population (3.800.000) resides in the broader Athens metropolitan region, producing 7000 tons of waste daily. Approximately 1 million (1.110.000) reside in metropolitan Thessaloniki, the second largest city in the north of the country, and the remaining 5,5 millions are scattered unevenly in mainland Greece and the islands. The most densely populated areas are suburbs of Athens, and the least densely populated areas are those of Epirus in the northwest (among which Thesprotia).
Greek environmental legislation and especially legislation on environmental impact assessment during waste management is fully harmonized with EU legislative texts. Framework directive 2008/98/EC was transposed into national law in 2012, while all other specialized directives, such on waste landfills, packaging, incineration; IPPC etc. are also now fully transposed.
According to official statistical data, in 2011 Greek residents produced approx. 5,7 million tons of urban waste, of which 18% was recovered (14,9% recycled packaging, 2,8% composting of organic waste, 0,3% energy recovery) and 82% was disposed of in landfills (out of which 4,8% in illegal ones).
For the recovery and disposal of urban household waste there are systems of source separation of packaging for 82% of the population and 75% of the municipalities, supported by 24 centres for sorting of recyclable materials. In the entire Greek territory there are 4 mechanical biological treatment plants and 77 landfills, which are served by 54 Waste Transfer Stations.
With regard to waste management, Greece is no stranger to EU institutions and has been under scrutiny for such issues ever since 1988. The Kouroupitos case before the European Court of Justice in 2000 attracted media attention and created public sensation in Greece, not least because of the actual issue, which was very well known to the Greek and EU authorities since 1988, but because it was the first case ever where a member state was called upon to pay a considerable penalty for non-compliance with its obligations and with the related judgment of the ECJ. A further milestone judgment was that of October 2005 , whereby the Court ruled that Greece was not taking sufficient measures to close down and rehabilitate illegal landfills, of which there were several hundred operating across the country. Eight years later (February 2013), in view of insufficient progress since the ruling, the Commission is referring the case back to Court and, in line with established policy, suggesting a daily penalty payment of 71193 euros for each day after the second Court ruling until Greece complies with the judgment and a lump sum calculated on the basis of 7786 euros per day for the period between the first judgment and the day of compliance or the day of the second Court ruling.
According to the initial calendar, all illegal landfills should have been closed and rehabilitated by the end of 2008. A letter of formal notice under article 260 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union was sent in April 2009, reminding Greece of its obligations.
However, according to the latest figures available to the Commission, at least 78 illegal landfills continue to operate in violation of EU waste legislation and 318 are still in the process of being rehabilitated. The closure of illegal landfills is being delayed by the lack of alternative waste treatment facilities. The situation may become even worse since the Fyli landfill – visited by the delegation, which receives 90 % of the waste generated in the Athens region, is facing imminent saturation, and will have reached full capacity by the end of 2014. The Commission is therefore referring the case back to Court and requesting financial penalties. The financial penalties will be reduced every time landfills are closed and rehabilitated provided new ones are not created.
Since the 2005 ruling, progress has been made by Greece through the closure and rehabilitation of many illegal landfills and the establishment of a more or less adequate waste management system in certain areas. The majority of these projects have been co-funded by the EU . 16 new landfills and 23 Waste Transfer Stations are currently in construction, while 12 landfills are being enlarged. There is notable progress in the planning procedures for Waste Processing Facilities in almost all regions, which are expected to considerably reduce the volume of biodegradable waste ending up in landfills. Latest figures given by the Greek Ministry of Environment and Climate Change indicate that 71 illegal landfills are still in operation, 57 illegal landfills have been rehabilitated (339 remaining, in 74 of which rehabilitation works are in progress). 95% of these rehabilitation works are scheduled for funding by EU structural funds, and the number of illegal landfills is expected to further diminish in 2013 and 2014. Another step to be taken in the immediate future is the amendment of the National Waste Management Plan and of the National Plan for the Prevention of Waste Production, in compliance with Directive 2008/98, which will subsequently lead to the amendment of Regional Waste Management Plans. Progress has therefore occurred, efforts have been made, but there is still a notable and excessive reliance on landfill at the expense of other options which appear rarely to have been fully considered.
II. The visit
The petitions received by Greek citizens refer to the non-compliance by the Greek authorities with EU waste disposal criteria in actual landfill locations and procedures in connection with the projected landfill site near Megalopoli in the Peloponnese region. The purpose of the mission was to respond to the petitioners’ concerns and to enable the Committee to follow up and verify issues on which the Parliament has deliberated on the basis of the report by Mr. Carlos Iturgaiz, on behalf of the Petitions Committee, on the application of the Waste Management Directive .
Some of the petitioners have already attended meetings of the Committee and have had the occasion to present their views to the Members. They regard the establishment of these waste sites as an infringement to the provisions of Council Decision 2003/33/EC establishing criteria and procedures for the acceptance of waste and landfills pursuant to Article 16 and Annex II to Directive 1999/31/EC.
The petitioners are concerned that landfills (in several areas such as near Megalopoli, Grammatiko, Karvounari and on Corfu) are moreover potentially hazardous to the health of the local population, that they pollute the surrounding waters and damage the environment. They question the basis on which the sites were chosen and the practical validity of the environmental impact assessments which were conducted.
The objective of the visit was, therefore, to engage in further discussions with the interested parties with a view to making recommendations which could subsequently be used to respond to the concerns of the petitioners. Within a period of three days members of the delegation were able to hold meetings in Athens with all interested parties, both petitioners and representatives of the state authorities, and make site visits in 4 different parts of Greece (Attica, Peloponnese, Thesprotia (Epirus), Corfu) to 5 landfill sites and come into contact with local municipal authorities and meet with petitioners and concerned residents in the respective areas. The logistical challenge was therefore understandably great and so were the aspirations due to time restraints. What is more, the present visit was realised following the cancellation of the same visit, which had been scheduled to take place in May 2013. Thus both expectations and anticipation were high.
The landfills visited form part of the regional waste management plans in Greece. The particularity of this fact-finding visit though is the fact that each of these landfills is in a different stage / has a different status: Grammatiko is in construction; Fyli is fully operational and has been for the past fifty years; Megalopoli is in planning; Karvounari is fully operational and commenced operation recently (in 2009); and finally construction at the Lefkimmi landfill was concluded a year ago, but it is still not in operation.
Day 1:Attica (Athens and Grammatiko)
Grammatiko is a small community near Marathon, in northeast Attica. It hosts one of the three integrated waste management facilities included in the Regional Waste Management Plan for Solid Waste of the Region of Attica (the other two being Keratea in SE Attica and Fyli in western Attica). The compound is planned to include a composting plant for pre-sorted organic waste, a processing plant for mixed municipal waste and a landfill.
All three integrated waste management facilities were scheduled for funding by EU structural funds (financing period 2000-2006). Due to delays or various other hindrances, the construction of the Keratea landfill was cancelled. Grammatiko landfill is currently under construction, almost a decade after its financing approval, and Fyli, which has served as the only major landfill for Athens during the last fifty years, is the only landfill project that was completed – having been substantially upgraded, and thus constitutes the only lawful waste disposal site in Attica.
Source- separation projects are currently being implemented in all the municipalities in the Region of Attica, which are serviced by 4 Recyclable Materials’ Separation Facilities, the Ano Liosia Mechanical Recycling and Composting Plant, the Fyli landfill and a network of Waste Transport Stations. Approx. 3,8 mio. inhabitants in Attica produce annually 2.100.000 tons of municipal waste, out of which 200.000 tons are processed by the Recyclable Materials’ Plants, 260.000 by the Mechanical Recycling and Composting Plant, and circa 1.800.000 tons of residue and waste per year are headed for the Fyli landfill. This means practically that approx. 7.000 tons of waste end up at the Fyli landfill every day, an enormous amount by any possible calculation, which will mathematically lead to the exhaustion of the landfill’s capacity in the immediate future.
The construction of the Grammatiko compound thus aims at alleviating the pressing problem of the waste remaining for disposal in landfills in Attica. Approved for construction in 2003, its EIA report was issued in the same year and the financing for its realisation was earmarked from the Cohesion fund. However, construction was delayed and commenced only in December 2009, due to legal proceedings initiated by locals before the Greek Council of State and complaints filed at the European Commission and European Parliament. Since then numerous injunction applications have been lodged by local residents against the construction of the landfill, based on a variety of legal and factual grounds. All applications before every instance were rejected.
Following complaints by residents, the Environmental Inspectors performed an in situ inspection of the construction site in Grammatiko. The report of the visit concludes that the EIA assessment on the ‘Geological-Hydrogeological’ characteristics of the area were based solely on bibliographical research of the wider eastern Attica region and not on sufficient data from field research on the site itself. On the basis of an independent study conducted by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, it was found that the EIA was based on erroneous data about the geological and hydrogeological characteristics of the region necessary to ensure territorial safety/security. In addition insufficient account was taken of the phreatic aquifer. Therefore, it is necessary according to the report to have further investigation into the characteristics of the region in order to safeguard the project and ensure the protection of the environment. In addition the report raised the issue of insufficient protection of the streams passing through the area. There is insufficient data given to the inspectors that there have been established locations for the deposition of surplus of inappropriate/unsuitable products from the excavation of the project. Also, the report stresses the issue of change of location of the Unit for liquid waste processing to the Eastern shore of the main stream to a location destined for solid waste processing and whether a new EIA should be conducted in this respect.
Based on those findings an injunction was filed in February 2012 to stop the works in progress, but was also rejected in May 2012. Works in the landfill are expected to be completed by December 2013, and the Waste Processing Plant of the compound will be constructed via a PPP; a relevant call for tenders is already open. The latter procedure was also contested before the Council of State but the application was once again rejected.
The members of the delegation arrived in Athens late in the evening of September 17th. The first day of the visit (Wednesday, September 18th), was divided in two: the morning was dedicated to meetings with the parties involved (petitioners and government officials, including the Minister responsible), whereas the schedule of the afternoon involved a site visit to the construction in Grammatiko.
The first meeting of the visit took place in the premises of the office of the European Parliament in Athens, in presence of the petitioners from Attica (Mr. Voridis, currently a member of the Greek Parliament, Mr. Papadigenopoulos) and of Mr. Ioannis Papadopoulos. Also present were Mr. A. Kelepertzis, Professor of Geochemistry and Environmental Geochemistry at the Athens Polytechnical University and Mr. D. Damaskos, a representative of the Initiative for Agreement on Waste Management – PROSYNAT. In their brief presentations, all the petitioners reiterated and elaborated on the grounds for their petitions and gave short follow-ups on any eventual evolutions since their petitions were filed. Mr Voridis (0078/2007) claimed that the Ministerial Decision of 2003 approving the construction of the Grammatiko compound included three procedural violations: firstly, a condition on a percentage of residual waste had to be met, secondly, the authorities have not presented any concrete time frame for the completion of works and thirdly that five different statutory deadlines had not been complied with. In his opinion, Grammatiko is an area that is environmentally sensitive and is a forest area, in which there had been a large fire, and which in turn should have led to the reassessment on the environmental impact on the area. He urged the Petitions’ Committee to inform the European Commission about these violations and to ensure that the Regional Waste Management Plan is revised according to the actual situation in the area.
Mr. Papadigenopoulos (0573/2011) claimed that there is more than one landfill site in Greece which is problematic, and offered the landfills of Samos and of Karvounari as blatant examples. There always environmental issues involved in these cases. In the present case of Grammatiko, the EIA study made absolutely no difference, whereas scientists claim that there are water wells right below the surface. What he finds surprising is that no test drilling ever took place to see the quality and properties of the grounds below, and any efforts to that by local officials were soon given up as they were not authorised. Geological studies have shown that the underground consists mainly of water-permeable rocks, which means that underground waters could be polluted by leachate infiltrations. What is more, there are three streams in the area, which the EIA simply ignored. This means in practice that all toxic liquids will end up in the sea, which lies within 500m from the landfill site. Greek courts never adjudicated about the substance of the case; all suits, claims and injunctions before Greek and European instances were rejected on grounds of admissibility. He concluded by saying that this is an exorbitantly expensive project.
In support of the above, Prof. Kelepertzis stressed the four main scientific objections against the construction of the landfill in that site. Firstly, the aquifer is endangered due to permeable underground rocks, which could allow for leachate infiltrations. Secondly, the area is highly seismic, an element which was not taken into account in the EIA. Thirdly, there was no hydraulic study about the streams (6 small and 1 large) in the area, which will most likely serve as drainage ways for rainwater and possibly leachates in the event of a leak. Finally, he claimed that during the drafting of the initial EIA study there was no recording of the initial environmental conditions, which is a violation of the national legislation in force.
Mr. Damaskos took the floor and stressed that the European Commission chooses to ignore evident errors emanating from documents already submitted to them. In his opinion the Grammatiko project entails environmental crimes and large-scale economic scandals and he is alarmed that the “sheer mass of waste will choke us”. He also presented recommendation 20/2012 of the European Court of Auditors, according to which the dimensions of a Central processing unit for mixed waste must not be financed unless it is for the fraction of waste remaining in mixed situation after the proven exhaustion of the priorities described clearly in article 4 of the framework directive (98/2008). . In his view, incineration, disposal in landfills and processing of mixed waste is a last resort, and priority should be given to separation of waste at the source. As construction of the compound has only progressed to a rather small extent (8% of the compound, but almost 100% of the landfill cell), there is a legitimate concern, to which the authorities have signally failed to respond, about the quantities that the entire landfill is to hold. He claims that in the case of Grammatiko the entire project is designed for 10 times more waste than the actual needs, a fact which certainly raises questions. Importantly as members observed, it does not meet the condition of proximity to most areas of Attica. Special roads are being constructed at great and unnecessary cost to reach the site which is far away from any existing transport infrastructure.
During this meeting there was a significant intervention by Mr. Harilaos Marmarou, the head of the so called “Struggle Committee” of Fyli. In a few words he described the environmental situation in Fyli as grim. He claimed that the percentage of cancer cases is strikingly high in that part of Attica and served the members of the delegation with proof that all this suffering is directly linked to the environmental pollution caused by the Fyli landfill. He invited the delegation to visit the landfill in Fyli and have a first- hand look at the largest and most probably the oldest landfill in Greece and the devastation it has brought about to the area. The Members agreed to make allowances so as to visit Fyli during the afternoon of the second day.
The next meeting was scheduled at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, where the Members were awaited by a large delegation of state officials (more than 20 persons) involved in waste management at various posts. The meeting was chaired by the Secretary General of the Ministry, Ms. Nadia Giannakopoulou, who extended the full cooperation of the Ministry and of all the relevant national authorities with the delegation of the European Parliament.
The Secretary General expressed the willingness of the Greek state authorities to fully cooperate with the Petitions Committee and offer all information required, both during the meeting and after, by providing the necessary materials. She stressed that in each case that the planning or the construction of a major waste management was judicially challenged by concerned citizens, the state authorities were vindicated in court. She did indeed realise that citizens nowadays are increasingly more sensitive to environmental issues, but went on to clarify that there is no hidden agenda behind decisions for the construction of waste management compounds. There is always a lot of thought and planning that lead to such decisions. By following the established procedures and by introducing new ones, the Ministry aims to promote the shared responsibility between the state, local authorities and the public in the construction of infrastructure of such major importance.
The next speaker, Mr. Toleris, the director of the authority responsible for granting permits for waste management projects at the Ministry of Environment (EYPE), informed the delegation that prior to the construction of the facility in Grammatiko there was discussion within the ministry as well as with the public on the pinning of the locations for the landfills for approximately 15 years, until in 2003 the relevant ministerial decision was adopted, indicating Fyli, Grammatiko and Keratea as deposit locations. The EIA report for Grammatiko was, he maintained, comprehensive; it was made available for public consultation and opinions were expressed by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Culture and the local society. The petitioners disagree, pointing out that the existing water streams were ignored by the EIA.
The decision for the approval of environmental terms was approved in December 2003 and was renewed in 2009. The procedure followed for the drafting of the EIA report was moreover complete and in full compliance, he asserted, with the acquis communautaire. This was also the opinion of the Greek Council of State. All recourses to the Council of State failed; the court examined the completeness of the EIA report, found it to be lawful and construction proceeded. Numerous other proceedings have been instituted before ordinary courts, but were so far all rejected .
The installation is designed and it is being constructed, he assured members, by applying state of the art engineering procedures and construction specifications, according to the legislation currently in force and to all rules applicable to waste management facilities, whilst the cell under construction is hydraulically insulated. In response to the allegations of potential pollution of underground waters, it is well- known that Attica has no underground watercourses, or at least none that are significant. That was also the finding of the EIA report and this is the reason why water is being transported into Athens from as far as 300 km away. As to the allegations that the pinning of the location and the design are erroneous, Mr. Toleris said that this is an ex ante estimation. It appears that when judging ex post there seems to be no problem: the environmental conditions applied are strict and in compliance with EU legislation; in order to ensure the funding for such a large- scale project, economic considerations were taken into account at the time that the project was approved.
With regard to the Fyli landfill, it is already known that there are public health issues at the area. The modernised facility was designed in a way that does in fact meet the necessary conditions for its operation. It is nonetheless one of the oldest locations receiving tons of any type of waste since the late 1950s. Following the expansion of the city limits over the last decades, the pinning of the location must be re-evaluated and specific studies should be launched in order to determine the origin of the pollution and the subsequent high disease rate of the local population.
With regard to other allegedly “problematic” landfills in Greece, such as Samos, Lefkimmi and Katerini, Mr. Toleris stressed that EIAs are not done centrally, but only locally, as these are small-scale projects. In these cases usually problems emerge from substandard construction rather than errors in design. Finally, in response to the allegation that the European Commission receives erroneous or misleading information by the Greek authorities, this is quite impossible in his opinion, as all data is available and has been made available to the Commission in a transparent way, and court cases were in fact adjudicated, finding the projects to be lawful.
The floor was subsequently given to Mr. P. Merkos, Chief Inspector for the Environment. The Grammatiko landfill area and the beach were investigated and on the spot visits were made in 2010 and 2011. Even before the construction of the facility, complaints from citizens were being received at an alarming pace, especially after local rainfalls, which led to the infusion of sea waters in the Grammatiko area with soil and detritus being washed down from the landfill site after construction began, an irrefutable proof of the existence of streams. The report that was drafted after this visit is still not finalised, there is merely an interim report, as the two inspectors who participated in the visit and inspection no longer serve in their positions. According to the draft report, which was made available to the Petitions Committee prior to the visit, in the area of the Grammatiko landfill there are archaeological findings, four geological faults and six streams (one crossing the centre of the landfill cell), the latter ending up at the beach. These were covered by bulldozers soon after construction of the landfill cell began, but are clearly visible in aerial photographs. What is more, the hydrogeological characteristics of the area were not taken into account. The EIA report was drafted in only three months, which is an extremely short period of time for such a large-scale project. As to the existence of the streams, the Inspectors made concrete suggestions to protect the landfill cell from rain waters, but these were not given credit by the state authorities.
Members Mr. Iturgaiz and Mr. Häfner and ex officio members Ms. Paliadeli, Mr. Salavrakos and Mr. Chountis posed a series of questions with regard to the potential infestation of the waters of the nearby Marathon lake (which is feeding the Athens metropolitan area with drinking water), whether geological and hydrogeological studies and experiments were implemented in the frame of the EIA report and whether the Inspector’s final report on Grammatiko is expected to be delivered soon.
In response to these questions the General Director for Quality of Life at the Region of Attica, Mr. Economopoulos, responded that Grammatiko is expected to receive municipal waste only, which constitutes only a low risk to environment. One should take account of the population residing in Attica, which prior to construction was serviced by illegal landfills in other (three) locations, now closed and rehabilitated. The present sanitary landfill area for residual waste that is currently under construction is well insulated and has a facility for processing organic waste, i.e. only residual waste is to end up in the landfill. The nearby Marathon lake would only be endangered by an illegal landfill, such as the one that previously existed in Grammatiko, but at that time there were no protests, whereas nowadays people in the area are far more sensitive in environmental issues and fear the possibility of pollution of underground waters. As to the question of whether drilling was performed to ascertain the geological content and qualities of the underground, these were indeed performed at five monitoring locations, where no water was found. It is true that during the phase of the EIA no drilling was undertaken, but more than 30 were done during construction, and these were impeded each time for superficial reasons of public order. No water basin was found to exist at that area and surface waters are directed to other locations where they are expected to concentrate. Mr. Toleris reiterated that the Marathon lake will not be affected, as it does not lie within the same hydrological basin as the landfill site and there is no underground connection between the two. Despite of all the accusations, the state warmly supports this project, not only because of the urgent need for waste disposal locations, but also because it is the product of very good work and study, knowing that there would be public protest against it, because of the not-in-my-back-yard attitude that accompanies waste management projects. As to the completeness of the EIA report, it includes geological, hydraulic and design studies (not specialised however), including also a study of the underground. When the allegations by Mr. Kelepertzis were initially put forward, the Ministry asked for a written opinion by three professors at the Athens Engineering University, who claimed that there are no streams in the area and that the strictest standards on water basins are met in this project. Even though Directive 2008/98/ EC was transposed only in 2009 and its application commenced in 2010, the standards applied in the present project were already high.
It was an honour for the delegation to meet Mr. Ioannis Maniatis, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who joined the meeting. He expressed the support of the political leadership of the ministry to the work of the Petition’s Committee by courteously providing all the required information. He stressed the great progress achieved in Greece over the previous years in waste management: five (out of the thirteen) regions are no longer faced with waste management issues. In his opinion, the solution of these issues entails the co-decision of local communities in the matter, and this can only be achieved by transparent procedures, conducting of public dialogue and consultation and persuasion of local communities. The role of the state, he affirmed, is to offer funds and undertake institutional and legislative initiatives, in order to resolve such objectives. Local communities should realise that they are also to be involved in the fight against a joint fiend, which is the degradation of the environment.
The afternoon of Wednesday, September 20th was dedicated to an on-site visit to the Grammatiko construction site. The delegation was warmly welcomed by the municipal council of Marathon at the Marathon Race Museum, where they reiterated the reasons that the local residents and authorities are opposed to the landfill project; these very same reasons constituted also the grounds for attacking the decision for the construction of the facility before the courts, a law suit which was rejected by the Council of State. The main reasons concerned the choice of the site itself without any objective reason or clear criteria and the fact that the construction is based on an EIA which makes no mention of the streams in the area (a fact equal to environmental disaster), of the seismic activity in the area and of the fact that only in vitro geological data was used. The composition of the ground and the groundwater were not taken into account or not examined.
Upon arrival to the landfill site, the delegation encountered a group of approximately 100 residents, who were peacefully protesting against the construction and were supported by local members of the Greek parliament. The landfill is placed in an idyllic location, in a valley at close proximity to the sea and with exquisite view to the southern Gulf of Evia. It should be noted that the visit took place in a day with excellent weather conditions, and the delegation was thus unable to personally witness the fact that the excavation products are washed by the rain into the sea. The petitioners did however provide clear photographic and video evidence of this.
According to an engineer of the contractor, who received the delegation and provided for the necessary technical explanations, the cell of the landfill is almost complete, i.e. all the earthworks are completed at an area of over 10 acres, and the insulation materials have been placed, such as argyle layer, geomembranes, geotextiles and only in part some draining membranes. Also the facility for the collection and the processing of leachates is complete. Works have not commenced yet for the construction of the composting, recycling and bio drying facilities. Confronted by Prof. Kelepertzis and a retired inspector for the Ministry of the Environment and responding to the questions posed by the Members (Mr. Iturgaiz, Mr. Häfner and Mr. Baldini) and ex officio member Ms. Paliadeli, the engineer explained that the project poses no threat to the environment, that all provisions and decisions are being complied with and that its environmental and ecological standards are very high and that it is in fact a state of the art project. He claimed that the protests of the local residents are not valid, in the sense that all the necessary precautions have been taken. His replies were dismissed as lies by distraught local residents and the mayor. Following the conclusion of the visit, the MEPs approached the public, who saw the delegation as their last hope, after all means of legal recourse against the construction of the project had been rejected. The leader of the delegation Mr. Iturgaiz and Mr. Ηäfner stressed that they were there to see with their own eyes and hear about the issues at hand, thus making the voices of the local people heard in Europe.
Day 2: Arkadia and Attica (Megalopoli and Fyli)
The second day found the delegation waking up in Tripoli, the capital of Arkadia in central Peloponnese. According to their schedule the first meeting of the day was with the municipal council of Megalopoli, a small town approx. 20 minutes away from Tripoli. The mayor of Tripoli, Mr. Bouras, who is also the petitioner in this case (0978/2008), welcomed the delegation and proceeded with presenting the underlying facts of his petition. An industrial waste management site is to be constructed in the outskirts of Megalopoli, in a small distance from the lignite power plant operated since the 1970s by the Hellenic Public Power Company DEI. A permit was issued in January 2008 by the Greek Ministry of the Environment to the DEI in respect of this landfill site, which was to receive “mainly building materials containing asbestos originating from DEI installations, as well from other public buildings such as schools, hospitals etc. in the region of Peloponnese”. The term ‘asbestos waste’ contained in the initial ministerial decision, for which the permit was originally issued, has since been changed to ‘industrial and other waste’. The reason for this change is that at the time when the construction of the landfill was conceived DEI had just deconstructed one of the cooling towers in one of its power plants which contained a large number of asbestos plates. DEI opted however for the transport and the subsequent disposal of these plates in Germany.
The petitioner maintains that the description of the type of waste in the EIA is not accurate and could possibly mean that also other types of waste will end up in the landfill, of types that still remain unknown, and that also the technical procedures used for waste management and processing are not defined. What is more, the project is allegedly violating a series of EU directives, among which 99/31/EC and 91/156-EC. He also claims that the ministerial decision of 2011 is based on an EIA report of 2008, which was not updated at the time of the decision, to take into account Directives 2008/1/EC and 2008/98/EC. What is more, DEI has repeatedly asserted that it no longer uses the site, which in his opinion is untrue, as it appears from recent surveyor plans. In the EIA report the area pinned for construction appears to be far away from residential areas, yet in fact the settlement of Thoknia is at a distance of only 400 metres. The public had not been informed by the state about its plans for the construction of the site, and despite the numerous resolutions by municipal, prefectural and regional councils, the state remained indifferent to the citizens’ concerns. All explanations are allegedly founded on inaccurate data furnished by the Greek state.
Therefore, local residents have been struggling for the past years against the construction in the area, as under the particular site there is the largest underground lake in the Balkans, holding ca. 300 million m3 of water (DEI is in fact using the underground water as cooling liquid for its power plant). It is the petitioner’s view that the Greek state tries to find a solution to the problem of dangerous waste through DEI’s needs; the fact that DEI no longer needs to dispose of asbestos plates only makes the need for construction of the landfill redundant. Even though the environmental terms for the landfill clearly indicate the type of waste to be disposed of, it still remains unclear what type of industrial waste is intended for the site. As the use of lignite as a fossil fuel for power production is gradually abandoned, local residents request that their area, an area of great natural beauty and resources, is rehabilitated and that there is clarification about the state’s intentions, as there is also other types of waste, which are far more dangerous and that are not expressly mentioned.
Other speakers (a doctor, member of the Greek Parliament, and a representative of the regional council) expressed the concerns of the population about environmental pollution and public health matters. They are weary about the waste that will be disposed and about lack of accountability by the state and private persons. Although in the area DEI is operating special units for the processing of sulphur residues in air, these particular DEI lignite mines are exhuming more sulphur into the atmosphere when compared with other mines in Greece. Currently the procedure for the construction is progressing and the PPP draft contract was requested by social groups for information and consultation. This has not been disclosed as it is allegedly violating EU law; despite that, a temporary contractor for the construction has already been identified.
Local mayors who were also present indicated that they are worried about the fact that other types of dangerous waste, from other parts of the Peloponnese and from Greece will be disposed in the landfill. They are against the disposal in the neighbour’s backyard and contend that management should be done locally. They find it ethically challenging that an area which is already considerably polluted and has contributed greatly to national economy should bear an extra burden.
A short discussion on petition 1152/2010 ensued, which refers to the Ermioni area in the neighbouring prefecture of Argolida. Water is no longer potable in many areas, due to contamination by pesticides, as proved by water sample analyses performed at the behest of the Greek Communist Party. A further concern is the construction of a large hotel in Ermioni, which will also include several golf courses, to the detriment of the remaining underground waters. Furthermore a desalination unit currently in construction is illegal, both from a technical and constructional point of view, while the plant for processing of liquid waste is operating illegally, i.e. without a permit. In fact, the Environment Service of the Prefecture of Argolida ascertained in an on-site visit that there are a lot of violations in the operation of the plant. Last but not least, there is the problem of thousands of tons of waste in the Municipality of Ermionis: approx 40.000 packs of processed waste are awaiting their transport from the area, polluting the air, the underground waters and the surrounding environment as a whole, while running the risk of catching fire from the waste that is being burnt in the nearby landfill.
Subsequently the delegation visited the site of the future construction of the landfill, which lies at a close distance from the DEI power plant. Ms. Vasiliki Tsadari, Director of the Generation Environment Department of DEI greeted the group and explained the operations planned on a map, and answered a series of questions by the petitioners and the members. It appears (also from the materials made available from the Committee on Petitions) that the ministerial decision speaks only of asbestos and not of other types of industrial waste, and actually bans the disposal of liquid waste, even though the landfill will have made allowances for leachates. This also means that there will be no leakage to underground waters and no contamination of the nearby rivers. Asbestos does not produce leachates, as it is inert and after burial it does not pose any threat to the surrounding environment, as indicated in Decision 2003/33/EC. What is more, after construction of the site, its operation will be contingent upon a permit to be granted by the Region. In this permit all the types of waste will have to be described in great detail, indicating their exact codes, thus raising any doubts about this. Asbestos is potentially harmful to the environment and to humans only when its fibres are released in the air during the removal of plates from buildings. The technical specifications for the construction of the landfill in Megalopoli are very strict and, according to the promoters, stricter than those prescribed by EU legislation, a fact that should ease the people’s concerns and ensure the protection of the environment. An indication for that is that asbestos plates will be transported for burial in plastic containers to ensure that no fibres are released. The monitoring, control and surveillance system of the landfill shall be intricate and involve frequent checks to underground waters, odours, noises, subsidence etc. The results of such observations are to be included in the annual report. The distance from neighbouring settlements (such as Thoknia) was taken into account during the planning stage. In fact following geological studies in the area of the Thoknia mine, it was found that the composition of the grounds is the area is such that actually makes any permeation by leachates virtually impossible or highly unlikely. It should also be noted that a similar landfill for asbestos waste is in operation since 2004 in north-western Greece. Almost 18.000 tons of such waste have already been disposed of there, without any problems, as indicated by annual surface and underground water analyses. DEI and state representatives tried numerous times to explain the factual situation to the mayor and the locals and to set their minds at ease. The permit for the creation of the unit will be granted to DEI. When DEI will need to demolish other plants in the future, then it will begin construction of the landfill, and accordingly will only build as many cells in the landfill as will be indicated in the demolition study at that time. In any event, the construction of a landfill cell for burial is much less costly than having the materials transported abroad for disposal.
On the way back to Athens, the delegation made a stop at the landfill of Fyli, as promised the day before. This visit was an out-of-schedule, spontaneous reaction to the request of the local residents, but it was also important for the delegation to see the exact situation in the largest landfill in Greece. The delegation of the EP was welcomed at the site by teams of local residents, who were protesting peacefully and looking up to the Members for support, as well as by members of the Greek Parliament, who had been informed about the visit.
Located on a plateau in western Attica at safe distance from the sea and operating since the 1950s with a total surface of over 800 acres, the massive landfill at present has a depth of 500 meters, 250 metres underground and 250 metres above ground. It receives daily approximately 7.000 tons and annually ca. 2 million tons of waste. Even though there has been considerable improvement to the infrastructure and the procedures followed on site, a fact also established by inspectors for the environment in previous visits, according to the studies performed by the University of Athens, the underground waters have been damaged beyond any repair or rehabilitation. Even if the landfill ceased its operation at this very moment, it would take approximately 200 years for the environment to recover. Cancer cases are extremely frequent in the area, especially among the youth and the personnel employed at the landfill, due to the contaminated air; nevertheless this fact is not confirmed by the National Centre Disease Control and Prevention. Other conditions are also frequent, such as allergies and skin conditions at great frequency. The waste management system in Fyli needs to be replaced by recycling and separation of waste at the source, while there should be environmental rehabilitation at the exact location of the landfill. The closest settlement to the landfill lies only 500 metres away. There is no separation at the source, waste is just being poured into the landfill and buried. There are composting plants in the area, which also dispose of the compost in the landfill. The locals want that the landfill stops operating, that a new waste management system is introduced and that the site might operate only for residual waste; they regret the fact that the EU is financing it and that so far no consultation with local society has taken place, which in turn results into lack of trust and belief in the state’s intentions and initiatives.
Day 3: Thesprotia and Corfu (Karvounari and Lefkimmi)
The delegation arrived late in the evening of Thursday, September 19th on the island of Corfu and in the morning of Friday, September 20th it crossed by boat the straits between the island and mainland (western) Greece, in order to arrive in Thesprotia, a prefecture in the north western part of the country, and visit the landfill of Karvounari, in response to petition 212/2008 by Mr. Ioannis Papadopoulos.
From the information gathered during the meetings in the Ministry in Athens on September 18th, from the meetings in the Town hall of Souli on September 20th and from the extensive materials supplied by the Ministry, it appears that the Regional Waste Management Plan for Epirus provides for the operation of separation systems at the source and recycling for all municipalities, one processing plant in Ioannina and four landfills, among which is Karvounari, servicing the prefectures of Thesprotia and Preveza. 176.150 residents were offered recycling services in 2012 and 4.409 tons of packaging and paper were recovered. All illegal landfills in the area have been shut down.
Approval for the Karvounari landfill was given in 2003 following an EIA report. The public was called upon to submit observations during the EIA. The project received funding from the Cohesion Fund, but construction was delayed due to a series of administrative and judicial proceedings initiated by local residents which were all rejected. Construction was completed and operations commenced in 2009. Citizens’ complaints related to the overflowing of the cell, the leachates draining into the groundwater (underground connection with the nearby river Acheron and its side-river Kokkytos were scientifically established), the presence of seagulls and other large birds in an area where livestock farming is very developed and the main source of income for many families, as well the small distance from residential areas and the respective odours. What is more, the facility was also receiving extra waste from Igoumenitsa and Filiates, and this led to the increase of lorry traffic in the nearby community of Karvounari.
Following complaints about problematic operation of the landfill, the European Commission initiated proceedings of non-compliance. An on-site visit and report by the Inspectors for the Environment identified a series of problems, such as insufficient leachate control and control over the sanitary burying, as well as issues with biogas controls. It was found to “present failures and omissions in terms of assessment, design and manufacturing/construction. This is also confirmed through the written observations by a member of the committee of receipt of the project and by the functioning contractor. The report also notes unfinished constructions, lack of material and non-approved modifications in construction materials”. The management company of the landfill was fined and requested to take measures.
The winter of 2012-2013 had unusually abundant rainfall in store for the area of Karvounari. Although the yearly rainfall is approximately 1100 mm, during that particular winter the rainfall reached levels of 2060mm, which lay far beyond the construction specifications and was the highest rainfall in Greece for the year. As a result, the cells overflowed with rainwater mixed with the uncovered waste, and in fact reached levels that high that the cell was almost at the verge of overflowing into a nearby stream or even the walls of the cell giving way due to hydraulic pressure. A temporary solution was given by transporting excessive leachates by tanker lorries to the facility of Parga. The municipality filed a criminal complaint with the public prosecutor.
In May 2012 the Region of Epirus set up a technical committee to assess the situation and propose concrete measures that should be taken by the management company of the landfill, in order to ensure compliance with environmental terms of the project and EU legislation. A cost analysis of approx. 102.000 Euros was also attached, along with a prioritisation of the measures to be taken in terms of urgency. The following were identified as measures of “greatest significance”: the creation of a horizontal biogas collection system; obstructing leachates from overflowing into a stream leading to a river; establishing whether the placing of draining membrane and geotextile would be conducive to the operation of the landfill, as these two very important layers were not placed in the landfill cell at the time of delivery of the project; the installation of lightning protection systems, and finally the replacement of the missing parts, in order to set the leachates monitoring, transport and processing system again in operation.
The Region of Epirus ensured the financing of small projects to address these matters; nevertheless, despite the best efforts and intentions of the state authorities, their success is only partial, to the extent that local residents fear that the cell might again be flooded in the winter to come. The municipality and the local residents request that the regional planning is changed, in order to ensure that the burden, i.e. the tonnage of waste received by each landfill in Epirus is born by facilities with adequate infrastructure and specifications. On top of that, recycling has only now started to roll out in the area. The reason for that is the small size of the municipality, which led the municipal authorities to enter into contracts with other larger municipalities in order to be able to buy the necessary public recycling bins. The main goal is to create a recycling culture with the citizens.
In reply to questions by Mr. Iturgaiz and Mr. Baldini, other mayors in the area stressed that there was intervention by public prosecutors in the matter of Karvounari already in 2012, when the cell first overflowed. A study commanded by the public prosecutor brought to light many inadequacies: wrongful pinning of the location, errors in studies at the precontracting stage, problems and omissions during construction, risks during operation. Also administrative proceedings were also initiated before the Council of State. Even though the hearing of the case took place in June 2011, the court has not so far pronounced its judgement, even though over two years have passed. In addition to the above, the European Commission initiated proceedings against the Greek government for non-compliance, due to the faulty operation of the Karvounari landfill.
The delegation visited the landfill site, which lies a few hundred metres off the community of Karvounari at an altitude of 300-600 metres, escorted by the president of the management company of the landfill (Mayor of Parga), the mayor of Souli, Ms. Braimi, and members of the municipal council. Received by a representative of the management of the landfill, an engineer, the representatives of the municipalities and the residents expressed their concerns (stated above) to him and to the MEPs. From the vantage point where the delegation stood it was difficult to see much in the cell of the landfill; there was also no recent rainfall to observe its effect on the cell, but still, even though it was the end of a hot summer there was a pond of water in the cell, covered with waste floating on the surface. Odours were present, but according to the mayor of Souli the foul smell on that day was rather moderate, as much of waste was extensively and correctly covered in view of the visit of the MEPs. There were also no seagulls or other birds. Other residents insinuated that the management entity of the landfill did their best to paint an improved and misleading picture to the visiting delegation, as, for instance, the processing facility is hardly ever in operation- nor was it actually on that particular day.
Taking a boat back to the island of Corfu, the delegation made a final stop at Lefkimmi, a small village at the far south end of the island, in order to have a first- hand impression about the complaints included in the aforementioned petition 212/2008 by Mr. Ioannis Papadopoulos.
The Regional Waste Management Plan for the Ionian Island provides for the operation of separation systems at the source and recycling for all municipalities, one processing plant in central Kerkyra and two landfills, among which is Lefkimmi, servicing the southern Corfu and the islands of Paxi. 104.371 residents were offered recycling services in 2012 and 5.384 tons of packaging and paper were recovered. The sole waste disposal location is Temploni in central Kerkyra, as the Lefkimmi landfill is not in operation, even though the first site of construction (surface of 19.849 sq.m) of the compound (total surface 36.820 sq.m.) is complete.
Procedures for the creation of a landfill began as early as 1995. An EIA report was produced and the public was called to submit their observations during the EIA process. The procedures followed until commencement of construction were compliant to the legislation in force, i.e. opinions by the relevant authorities on the particular location were required and given, and then the Pinning decision was issued by the Department for the Environment of the Prefecture. The construction of the site was co-financed by the 2000-2006 Cohesion Fund with a total budget of 3.000.000 Euro. It should be noted that the legislation that was then in force, but also the current legislation do not provide for public consultation.
Construction of the landfill was delayed because of legal proceedings initiated by the residents before the Council of State, which were all rejected. What is more, the landfill site is now complete but the facility is not in operation. Therefore it is impossible to control the compliance with conditions imposed by environmental legislation on waste management. Moreover, there has been no inspection by the Inspectors for the Environment. The facility is expected to commence operations when it will have received its permit, that is only after the processing facility is completed, the construction of which is expected to be open for tendering by the end of 2013.
The delegation went straight to the landfill site, where it was welcomed by a large number of concerned residents protesting peacefully and by the members of the Union for the Management of Solid Waste in the Prefecture of Kerkyra. After a brief description of the constructed facilities, residents and representatives of the opposition and of local citizens’ groups claimed that the creation of the site surprised them, as seven years ago they had not been informed in advance by any of the national/ regional/ municipal authorities nor was there any information in the local press. During the construction stage in previous years, the local residents protested and riot police was dispatched from Athens to preserve the order. Some people were terrorised, gassed and assaulted by police officers and there was even one death. They accused the municipal authorities of only being interested in giving the funds to the contractors, without even caring about waste management, so that they could also inaugurate another completed construction project for political reasons. Furthermore, there are archaeological findings, both in the cell, but also in close proximity (250 metres away) to the cell. There were also accusations that during construction some residents were blocked from accessing their properties, which in turn led to economic loss, due to the death of livestock and the destruction of crops. Many of the residents are also facing criminal or civil charges against them, merely because they protested against the construction of the landfill facility.
The EIA report not only ignores some crucial data (such as two rivers in the area), in their opinion, but also includes untrue information. There is forest land which has been uprooted and the soil around the area is used for agricultural protection (vineyards and olive trees). There are also settlements nearby, such as Kavos (500 m distance). The contractors stopped the works the day before the arrival of the delegation because they found water in the cell, which in the opinion of the residents is hydraulically connected to the twenty wells in the area (indeed there was a small lake in the centre of the cell), which run the risk of contamination by future leachates. The water runs evidently under the water table, because inspections performed by the Institute of Geological Studies in a dry time of the year indicated that it was not rainwater.
From the rich materials offered to us by the Ministry of Environment and by local authorities, the state seems to have observed all legislative provisions with regard to the stages of the procedure to be followed and in particular to the necessary publicity of its actions. It should be noted that the legislation that was then in force, but also the current legislation do not foresee the obligation for public consultation before the stage of publication of the EIA report. When the project reached that stage, the report was sent out to various local authorities and citizens’ organisations for their comments, and seven citizens expressed their concerns before the Prefectural Council. This means in fact that between 1995 and 2005 there had been no other protests (other than that of the seven residents), even though the construction of the site had been announced to the press in 1999 and there had been discussions in the Regional, Prefectural and Municipal councils of a relatively small island such as Corfu, where news travels fast.
On the technical aspect of the citizen’s assertions, the studies undertaken for the selection of the site, as well as for the EIA report depict the state at the time that the study was drafted, i.e. in 1998. At the time Lefkimmi was 3,5 km, Neochori 1,5 km and Kavos 1,5 km away from the site; what is more national laws do not provide for a minimum distance of settlements from the construction site. The state vehemently rejects the argument that the water that appeared in the centre of the cell is water from local wells and explains that it is technically possible (due to lack of pumping in an non-operating facility) that rainwater is gathered at the centre. In any event, drilling and boreholes in the area have indicated that there is no underground water in the area. And finally all the above arguments may prove to be moot when the operation of the landfill commences, because it will be turned into a Facility for processing residual waste, as soon as the operation of the Integrated Waste Management Facility commences.
Members returned to Brussels with their bags full of materials given to them by petitioners and authorities and which were further on supplemented by materials received by post in the two months that followed the conclusion of the visit.
The importance of the mission for the people who went to great trouble to meet and welcome the members of the delegation and the Greek accompanying members who also actively participated cannot be underestimated. Especially the former expect the European Parliament as a representative of “Europe” to do something and help them out of conditions that are unbearable for them and for future generations, and see it’s Members as heralds of hope.
Even though members visited landfill sites in various stages of progress and the schedule of the visit was very intense and included many destinations in only three days, there are some common threads/ conclusions that can be drawn a final outcome of the visit.
The overall impression is that there is a manifest lack of concise political vision or real plan about waste management. Consequently, the legacy of years of complete neglect in the application of waste management legislation in Greece is massive. Despite the acknowledged financial and political trouble that waste has meant for the country and the stated determination of the national authorities to remedy the situation, even now the compliant application is only progressing at a very slow pace. Recycling has only recently been organised during the last three years, been set up and running in larger cities, such as Athens and Thessaloniki. Likewise, while waste management facilities including recycling factories next to organised landfills have been constructed only in major cities, and only partially and locally in other geographical compartments, such as Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, where only recently a recycling facility commenced operations. There are indeed parts of Greece, mainly in remote areas, where recycling procedures have just now been introduced, and there are also parts of Greece, such as islands, where no recycling procedures and facilities have been established and communicated to the public.
As a result of the above, citizens seem to acknowledge landfills as the only means of waste management. This is also paired by the notable fact that at decision-making level there is general reluctance to develop alternatives to landfill facilities for the effective disposal of waste in a more environmentally sound manner.
According to the national authorities, structural weaknesses of the local administration who are the key actors for municipal waste management and for the implementation of municipal waste policies that led to successive administrative reforms and restructuring in recent years, were reflected in the slow development of waste management projects. Anyway, the option of outsourcing the management of waste in local authorities was a conscious choice in the service of decentralization and the principle of proximity.
Another feature that was common in all sites visited was the fact that, except for intense protests, citizens resorted to courts seeking redress against the decisions for the construction of landfill sites. Such decisions can only be attacked before the highest administrative court, the Council of State, and judgments from this court can take years until pronounced. This consequently causes delays in the application of the legislation and thus in the progress of public works that can last even for a decade.
It also became clear to the members of the delegation that there is manifest distrust and mistrust by citizens towards the state and its authorities. Even though explanations may be offered, access to documents granted and availability for discussion, Greek citizens, it seems (based on their experiences of their economic collapse and the reasons which led to this,) cannot help but look for the hidden agenda behind each government statement, act or action. This leads occasionally to potentially exaggerated behaviour and overreacting towards government decisions. Therefore, much work is still needed to be done in the field of transparency and public participation to revert this trend, in order to achieve the much needed social acceptance and solidarity which is absolutely imperative for such projects to work. The Megalopoli project is a clear example of this critical attitude of the citizens, where public consultation and explanations which lack credibility are not enough for citizens to give up their suspicions. Much of this can of course be attributed to the opaque top-down approach followed by state authorities in past decades, presenting decisions already made behind closed doors and ‘copy-paste environmental impact assessments, which left the public uninvolved and gave rise to this wary attitude. This is in spite of the nominal responsibilities given to local authorities by law.
Two more things were also manifest during the visit: firstly that the location of landfill sites was in the cases examined problematic, to say the least, as they appear to entail risks of water pollution (both groundwater and superficial, like galleys, rivers and sea). The geological characteristics of some sites do not seem to be the most appropriate, due to instability and/or permeability to phreatic layer, such as in Grammatiko. Moreover, a difficult access, which increases the waste management-related costs and emissions. The choice was not done by objective and (scientifically) verifiable criteria, but was in most cases a political decision, combined with lack of foresight and/or ignorance; in fact suitability seems to have been attempted to be justified post-pinning by means of technical studies. Nevertheless, such decisions have great impact on the environment and on the quality of life of present and future generations, a fact that leads to the second realisation, which is none other than people are suffering and protesting because of the traditional, deeply-rooted top-down approach by politicians and decision-makers imposing plans with often questionable technical and moral standards. The degradation of the environment in Fyli will be a monument of environmental mayhem, sickness and human suffering at least for the next 3 generations living in the area unless something more fundamental is done to restore the area.
Last but not least, one must underscore the visible progress achieved in the country in terms of environmental conscience, first of all at a social level, where Greek citizens are alert and aware of environmental factors affecting their lives and their importance. Not only are they no longer indifferent towards environmental goals and aspects in everyday life, but a newfound solidarity among fellow citizens has been found when facing what they consider socio-environmental injustices from authorities. This does not appear to be a simple NIMBY approach, but rather a claim of concern from citizens that they want to be informed and involved and that waste management is done properly in their territory, in order it to be environmentally safe and with a fair share of the related burden.
Secondly, at the level of political leadership and decision-making, some efforts appear to start taking place nowadays: the acknowledgement of the need for solid scientific evidence and backing of the positions supported by the state, transparency and pursuit of social participation through consultation and public discussion, observance of lawfulness (or at least in most of the cases), even if still at the lowest levels of EU waste hierarchy, and the commitment to control the environmental terms during the actual operation of a project are the three main axes in this effort. A change in mentality is essential towards sustainable development, through the prevention of waste production, reuse, recycling and recovery of products and energy. These were notions formerly unknown or formerly not applied in practice in Greece, but now they are simply mainstream. Yet, one must also underscore the evident politicisation of waste management issues, something which is also a factor of division and dissent among distraught citizens, who frequently see their honest interest in sustainable environmental solutions exploited for political purposes.
The fact the Greece is again in the sights of the Commission should further encourage this gradual change taking place, but the Commission should be careful to accompany its efforts with real financial incentives rather than fines for non-compliance. Successful implementation however requires a greater effort to recognise legitimate concerns of local people and take their views more seriously, especially when they are supported by scientific and well-documented studies to be included in decision-making. Local authorities must be recognised as essential partners in waste management and not as potential victims of ignorance, despite carrying less powerful political weight with the national government in final decisions. More priority must be attached preventing waste in the first place, and to the separation of waste at the source, in order to substantially reduce volumes of mixed waste entering landfills or littering the countryside. This is an important feature of the Waste Management Directive and must be applied.
Less mixed waste must be sent to landfills and other forms of disposal must be sought rapidly upper in the waste hierarchy, such as state of the art methanisation plants and biological treatment facilities as long as the sites chosen for such facilities are chosen with care and respect all the essential components of project management set out above as regards local communities.
Bearing the above considerations in mind, the Petitions Committee calls upon the responsible authorities and the Commission to take note of the following recommendations:
1. A national comprehensive plan for implementing an effective waste hierarchy is necessary involving the active participation of local, regional and national authorities and representatives of civil society, where reduction of household waste and improved sorting methods are introduced, enabling more efficient recycling processes to function. In this context full consideration must be given to all types of waste disposal at the end of the waste cycle leading to a marked reduction in dependency on landfills and the development of efficient and clean facilities and waste/energy plants or other suitable and sustainable methods of disposal.
2. Simply converting illegal dumpsites into legal landfills does not solve the structural problem, as they lie at the bottom of the EU waste hierarchy and pose major economic, social and environmental burden. It is suggested that alternative technologies and integrated waste management systems are used upper in the hierarchy set by the Directive 2008/98/EC, adapted to the special needs and requirements of each location.
3. Moreover, any revision of the already committed (2007-2013) and potentially new (2014-2020) EU funding must be subject to a change of approach in this sense, and foremost to meeting the current EU environmental and waste-specific legislation. This applies in particular in the case of Grammatiko, where in the, needed according to the Community Law (Directive 2008/1/EC-IPPC), revision of the EIA report and consequently of the Environmental Permit (which is equal to the term Construction Permit) the newest EU legislation and should be taken into account. In this sense, the compliance with the highest safety standards and the most stringent precautionary measures against any sorts of risk for the human health and environment should be properly assessed.
4. All these environmental and economic considerations must be respected to the full and the selection of landfill locations must be publicly justified by scientific studies on an ex-ante basis, allowing for full access to information and a genuine public participation should be able to consider alternative options. Detailed geological analyses on the concerned area must be carried out and all possible sources of water pollution must be thoroughly assessed. The impact in terms of costs and emissions of the transport of waste to the sites must be also a factor under consideration.
5. Taking into consideration that strong concerns have been raised by specialized geological institutions about the risk for underground water by the operation of Lefkimmi landfill, and taking into consideration the findings on the field about the same risks, we invoke the precautionary principle and we request the carrying out of appropriate on-site technical assessment, by independent experts, before any other action is realized.
6. Regarding Lefkimmi, which is also placed in the middle of an agricultural area and in particular olive trees, and taking into account serious dysfunctions of existing similar types of landfills and the risks for serious incidents and risks cited in the study of geological research institute, we recommend applying the precautionary principle, and not put it into operation.
7. Whereas the several judiciary appeals in the different court levels have certainly delayed the implementation of some of the projects presented by Greek authorities to the Commission, it must be pointed out that the exercise of the legitimate right of seeking judicial redress cannot in any case be considered the root cause explaining the lag in conformity to EU waste legislation in Greece.
8. In Grammatiko and Karvounari, boreholes for the collection of water samples should be drilled to determine whether there are leakages to groundwater and therefore a risk to public health. The results of the samples should be made publicly available. A moratorium should be established on the use of the sites while further more conclusive checks are conducted to establish their status and the eventual extent of contamination of groundwater. Should such a risk become evident, the sites should be immediately closed.
9. The European Commission should implement a more cohesive policy in controlling the use of funds disbursed and, through reinforced inspection capacity, exercise close monitoring, eventually also through on site- visits. Also, the European Commission should be sensitive and intervene, in accordance with its obligation under Directive 85/337/EEC, in cases where there are indications of manifest errors in design and construction of co-financed projects, before these projects are completed and cause damage to the environment and waste of public funds.
10. Waste management must be promoted as an essential part of economic development, involving the private and public sectors, and become the object of a consensus at political level. If such policies are seen to be divisive or politically motivated they cannot obtain public support, nor the confidence of citizens. Any political exploitation of the genuine concern on waste management issues by citizens and their claim for sustainable environmental solutions must be stopped and instead a national pact for sustainable waste management should be subscribed by the different political parties.
11. Taking into consideration that citizens have filed petitions regarding the totally unacceptable situation in Fyli, which we will review as soon as possible, and that the degradation of the environment in Fyli will remain a monument of environmental mayhem, sickness and human suffering at least for the next 3 generations living in the area; We request from the Greek authorities and the European Commission, to promote the immediate performance, by independent international institutions, of toxicological and epidemiological studies on the population of the municipality of Fyli.
12. For future waste management facilities, suitable and appropriate locations should be identified based upon objective scientific and sociological criteria. The decisions on locations must in every case and without exception ensure the proper implementation of EU legislations and directives regarding waste, and be based exclusively on technical criteria. It is crucial that the Ministry’s Environmental inspectors are allowed to do and conclude their work and report independently and in good time for effective decisions to be taken without undue delay.
13. It is of utmost importance to put in practice a transparency approach concerning waste management, and particularly towards population potentially affected by sites and new projects, and include them in the decision-making process.
14. Waste management should be seen as a great opportunity to boost employment, both at the level of expertise during planning, construction and operation of the facilities, as well as at the level of recycling waste. Future waste management plans should take this aspect into account in every case. In the current context of economic crisis, reduction of waste lowers the management costs for public and private budgets whereas sorting enables new resources and raw materials at low cost.
15. Finally, with regard to the current procedure instituted by the Commission against Greece before the Court of the European Union, this will most probably lead to the imposition of fines for non-compliance with obligations arising from legislation and/ or from a previous judgement. The Commission should be careful to accompany its efforts with real financial incentives rather than only fines for non-compliance. Especially at these economically dire times for Greece, it would be most conducive if the amounts equal to the possible fines were disbursed to finance investment on sustainable waste management projects and preventive measures to reduce waste in Greece.