Polluters suspended from eco-cert scheme

4 05 2009

DAMIAN MAC CON ULADH

ΠΗΓΗ: Athens News

IN THE first move of its kind, the Greek environment ministry agency responsible for monitoring the environmental performance of companies has decided to remove two polluting firms from its register.

At its meeting on March 16, the Greek EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) Committee decided to suspend the registration of paint manufacturer Berling ABEE and Aluminco AE, which produces aluminium.

The suspensions only occurred, however, after an environmental activist sent an email to the EMAS Committee informing it that the environment ministry, under which it operates, had previously fined the companies for polluting the Asopos River.

The two companies are based in the heavily industrialised Oinofyta area, 40km north of Athens. The region, located in the basin of the Asopos, is synonymous with groundwater pollution.

Participation in the EMAS scheme is voluntary. Berling was awarded the certificate, in August 2006, and Aluminco, in June of the following year.

In July 2006, Berling was also certified with ISO 14001:2004, the environmental management standard that requires companies to minimise their negative impact on the air, water or land and comply with applicable laws and regulations.

However, in November 2007, inspectors from the environment ministry found that the two companies, along with 18 others, had contributed to the pollution of the Asopos River.

Aluminco, deemed the largest polluter, was fined a quarter-of-a-million euros, while Berling was ordered to pay 62,000 euros.

Despite being fined for polluting the Asopos, both companies remained on the EMAS register until March 16.

Speaking to the Athens News, the environmentalist who raised the discrepancy with the Greek EMAS Committee, Grigoris Maltezos, said he was baffled that the environment minister could impose fines on these companies on the one hand, whereas another agency of his ministry could leave the same companies on the EMAS registry.

At the time of going to press, the websites of Berling and Aluminco continue to state that they are members of the EMAS scheme.

Asopos to Brussels

On April 15, the Asopos River issue will be the subject of a discussion called by the European Green Party in the European Parliament. Greek environmentalists, including Maltezos, will address the meeting, as will Erin Brockovich, the US environmentalist who successfully sued a major US power firm for polluting groundwater with toxic hexavalent chromium.

Traces of the carcinogenic chemical have been found in the Asopos River. And, as the Athens News reported on March 20, preliminary research has detected the toxin in carrots and onions grown in the area and sold in Athens.

ATHENS NEWS , 03/04/2009, page: A03

Article code: C13332A032

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