Greek island waste dump makes EU history

European Court rejects Greek attempts to improve management as insufficient

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) today condemned Greece a second time for failing to comply with the EU's 1975 framework waste directive and the 1978 toxic and dangerous waste directive at a small town on the island of Crete. The case has made history as the first to lead to monetary sanctions being imposed on an EU member state (see separate article).

The ECJ ruled that, eight years after it was first condemned over the same infringement, Greece was still failing on three counts to implement the directives in the Chania district of the island. It said the local authorities were failing to ensure that waste was disposed of without endangering human health and harming the environment; and had not drawn up waste and toxic waste disposal plans required under the directives, 19 years after this became a legal requirement following Greece's accession to the EU in 1981.

Brought by the European Commission, the case centred on an unregulated rubbish dump in a ravine close to the mouth of Kouroupitos river. For several years the dump received refuse from the entire area, including military and medical waste, and for over a decade waste burned continuously and uncontrollably due to its high organic content. The leachate and combustion products from the dump seeped into the sea nearby, and solid waste still enters the river at the site.

The first Commission action was brought after it received complaints about the dump in 1987. Though Greece said then that dumping would end in 1988, the Commission pursued the case until a first condemnation was delivered in 1992. The ECJ today rejected Greece's arguments that its attempts to find alternative waste disposal sites had been frustrated since then by local resident opposition.

Follow Up:
European Court of Justice, tel: +352 43031. See also the court's press release, and the full judgement in case C-387/97.

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