Athens News, 23.4.2010
by Yannis Zabetakis
ENVIRONMENT Minister Tina Birbili on April 19 gave her second Asopos River press conference, announcing stricter limits on pollutants in surface waters.
For example, the legal limit for hexavalent chromium will now be reduced from 200μg/l, as had been stipulated by outdated legislation from 1979, to a new limit of 3μg/l.
Hexavalent chromium, or Cr(VI), is the carcinogenic compound that was found in drinking water in Hinkley, California, and made famous by Erin Brockovich.
Back on February 8, at Birbili’s first press conference about the Asopos, the minister promised to deliver a new legal framework within two months, which she has now partly delivered on.
If this trend of scientific thought is to be followed for drinking water, the February ministerial pledge that Cr(VI) in drinking water ought to be no more than 0.06 μg/l may soon be realised.
However, many issues remain. No commitments have been made concerning the health problems of the people of the Asopos region. A state-supervised epidemiological study is still needed. But nothing has been said of who will pay the cost of the environmental remediation.
What of the polluters of the past and present? Will they be held accountable for the pollution they have caused and, if so, will they pay in accordance with the EU’s “polluter pays principle” for the inherent damage?
It was announced that the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP) is to provide 10 million litres of water a day, to flush the current polluted waters away, but, unfortunately, this can only be as far as the enclosed ecosystem of the southern Evoikos Gulf.
This leads us to question the remedy and its subsequent consequences. Are we solving this problem or merely moving it elsewhere?
*The author is an assistant professor of food chemistry and lead auditor in the chemistry department at the University of Athens
ATHENS NEWS 26/04/2010, page: 18