Transport of sludge from Athens endangers human health and pollutes the environment
The Commission will refer Greece to the Court for the lack of treatment and the dangerous transport of sludge from the urban wastewater treatment plant in Psitallia near Athens. Its construction is co-financed by the EU from the Cohesion Fund. This plant treats the wastewater from Athens. Each day, it generates 300 tonnes of sludge. This amount will rise to 800 tonnes per day when the new system for wastewater treatment will become fully operational.
The generated sludge is not treated on site but sent to the landfill of Ano Liosia, which is 21 km away. The transfer involves combined transport by both lorry and boat through high densely populated areas. This endangers human health, as the raw sludge may contain potentially infectious micro-organisms ending up on public roads due to lorry spillages. A second problem is that the sludge is disposed of in liquid form, which takes up three times more space than dried sludge. As a result, the Ano Liosia landfill is saturated. Sludge in the landfill ferments and produces polluting leachate and greenhouse gases. If the sludge was dried, though, most of it could be used as burning material.
These practises violate the EU's Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, under which sludge arising from wastewater treatment should be re-used whenever appropriate and its disposal routes should minimise the adverse effects on the environment. They also contravene the Waste Framework Directive, which requires Member States to ensure that waste is recovered and disposed of without endangering human health and harming the environment.
The Commission already warned Greece twice about the need to solve the problems. The Greek authorities have indicated that they are planning the construction of a drying installation in Psitallia and that they have completed the required environmental impact assessment. However, the tendering process had not started because they had applied for further EU funds. In the meantime, the transport of sludge from Psitallia to Ano Liosia continues and continues to put people and the environment at risk. The expected increase of the sludge produced will worsen the situation. This is why the Commission will now turn to the Court of Justice.