On 1 December 2020, Greek Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Lefteris Nikolaou-Alavanos of the Non-attached Members posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“The inhabitants of the industrial town of Aspropyrgos, which houses chemical plants, two large refineries, an ammunition factory, a cement factory, the largest hazardous waste treatment plant and storage and/or recycling facilities for hazardous and non-hazardous waste, have been witnessing its decline for a number of years. Both the SYRIZA government and the present New Democracy government granted hundreds of environmental permits for industries such as these, where the occasional fire spreads carcinogenic pollutants into the wider area.
The already overburdened area now risks containing an even greater concentration of polluting activities with the proposed amendment of the General Urban Plan, under the aegis of the European Union, thus increasing the risk of a large-scale industrial accident.
In the light of this:
1. What is the Commission’s view of the demands of the inhabitants of Aspropyrgos, Thriasio and Western Athens to bring a definitive end to the death and disease being spread by the Integrated Waste Management Facility, which has a toxic landfill at its core?
2. How does the Commission view the need for an immediate comprehensive risk assessment of the area around Aspropyrgos and Thriasio to prevent any risk to workers and residents, the first step being to reject the proposed General Urban Plan and to redefine it based on the needs of local residents?”
On 2 February 2021, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The industrial activities developed in the town of Aspropyrgos have to comply, inter alia, with the strict requirements laid down in the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), the Waste Framework Directive and the Landfill Directive. Proper enforcement of such requirements by the competent authorities is critical. Where shortcomings are detected (e.g., the operation of a non-compliant landfill), effective, proportionate and dissuasive action must follow.
The IED lays out the principles governing the basic obligations of the operators such as: all the appropriate preventive measures are taken against pollution, no significant pollution is caused and the necessary measures are taken to prevent accidents and limit their consequences. The Seveso Directive addresses the prevention of major industrial accidents, whereby the accidental risks shall be analysed, including accidents provoked by domino effects. It also ensures that new plants are located at a safe distance away from existing ones, allows public participation and provides access to justice.
The Commission is not competent to assess the general urban planning. As regards waste management planning, on 14 December 2020, the Commission services formally requested Greece to submit the relevant revised plans by 1 March 2021. This new planning, due since 5 July 2020, is necessary to adapt to the revised EU waste legislation adopted in 2018. It is also an opportunity for Greece to improve its waste management performance based on achievable objectives and targets as well as the right choices for infrastructure. The Commission issued recommendations for Greece to this effect in the Environmental Implementation Review (2019) and the Early Warning Report for Greece (2018).”
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/industry-pollution-smog-sunrise-1761801/