The Salt Lake at Larnaca
Algae growing on the banks of the lake

RESIDENTS in the Kamares area of Larnaca could be at serious risk from human waste surrounding the community due to the lack of a proper sewerage system.

Residents say they are forced to pay to have their sewerage removed, though a number of them - according to local authorities - are illegally diverting their waste into the nearby Larnaca Salt Lake.

In addition, a nature path was built on top of the sewerage pipes that serve part of Kamares, making it impossible to maintain them.

One infuriated Kamares resident, Savvas Hadjianastasis, told the Sunday Mail this week that Kamares was slowly turning into “the Amazon jungle” with rodents, snakes and clouds of mosquitoes.

He said waste had been accumulating for the past six years, ever since a 7km-long nature path –stretching from the Kamares monuments to the Larnaca courts – was built on top of the sewerage pipes.

Hadjianastasis said the valves on the pipes need to be regularly replaced but this can’t be done as the concrete path was now covering them.

This has resulted in tonnes of waste seeping into the soil and contaminating the area around it, he said.

Hadjianastasis accused the town planning department and the sewerage board of being “criminally responsible” for the situation. Town planning had granted permission for the path – which is regularly used by tourists – and the sewerage board was responsible for not ensuring their pipes were being maintained properly, he added.

He even claimed 35 flamingos had died in the Salt Lake last year due to the contamination. But Hadjianastasis said the state services were pointing the finger of blame at each other, making the case drag on.

“These people are criminals,” he said. “The police have over 300 statements against them.”

And once the police inquiry into the matter is complete, he added, the residents will one by one start suing the board for their health problems and the financial costs they have suffered over the past six years.

“The land needs to be dug up and covered with new soil for this area to get clean,” said Hadjianastasis. “When the earth dries and the wind blows, all this contamination is being breathed in by our children, making them sick. A five-year-old girl nearly died recently and the doctors said it was an infection picked up from the polluted environment.” The Ombudswoman is also in the midst of investigating the matter.

“Once they go to court and get charged, we will start lawsuits,” said Hadjianastasis. “People won’t sit with their arms crossed. They should know this. Public health is at risk and they have great responsibility for their crime.”

Hadjianastasis was also upset with Environment Commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou – whose wife is the sewerage board’s general manager – for not drawing up a report and urging the government to take action.

Theopemptou acknowledged the severity of the problem but insisted Hadjianastasis’ accusations were misplaced. He said the valves in question were around two centimetres in diameter and definitely not capable of emitting the quantities of waste Hadjianastasis was referring to.

“(Hadjianastasis) is shooting in the wrong direction,” said Theopemptou. “Town planning is to blame for not putting restrictions when giving building permission to build near the lake. You don’t need a university doctorate to know the waste won’t be absorbed.”

Worryingly, the Commissioner said almost identical problems were being faced elsewhere in Cyprus.

Larnaca Mayor Andreas Louroudjiadis yesterday explained that the problem was the result of a number of matters – the increased rainfall resulted in water levels going up and mixing with the sewerage; the leak from the pipes under the nature path; the fact that waste from Aradippou somehow ends up in the area; and the canal running alongside the salt lake being littered with garbage and debris, illegally thrown in by members of public.

“It isn’t black and white, you can’t just blame it on one thing,” the Mayor told the Sunday Mail. “But undoubtedly it is a problem that needs to be dealt with.”

Louroudjiadis added that he planned to visit the site tomorrow morning with technicians from the sewerage board, “to find practical solutions, taking into account environmental sensitivities”.

Evi Theopemptou, general manager of the Larnaca sewerage and drainage board, said the plan was to complete the Kamares sewerage system - part of the area has a system - within the next two years, with tenders opening in July and construction starting by the end of the year.

In the meantime, she said the board – in cooperation with Larnaca municipality – planned to sponsor four cesspit emptiers a month to gather waste.

“We are willing to pay for four trucks per month and assuming they charge €60, we will pay two thirds - €40. But this is provided they show a copy of the receipt showing they were discharged in the proper location, Vathia Gonia – the official sewerage area appointed by the state.”

She said the broader effort was to stop overflowing sewerage from ending up in the Larnaca Salt Lake, which she said was “marginally surviving” the situation. The Green Party has on several occasions recently called for a halt on people piping their waste into the lake. The issue was even discussed at a parliamentary committee level. 

An official at the town planning department of the interior ministry said permission for the nature path had been issued by the Larnaca municipality’s town planning unit.

According to microbiologist Despina Charalambous, the effect of such pollution on human health will not become apparent now but rather in the long term.

“This is because our soil will become contaminated. Bacteria such as salmonella and e-coli, but mostly coliforms are absorbed by the soil, while human waste also carries a large concentration of viruses,” said Charalambous. “Where there is human waste, there definitely shouldn’t be residential areas or schools nearby.”

She explained that the waste is absorbed by the earth and then when it rains, the flowing water brings with it all the bacteria and contamination.

“Soil contaminated with waste moves from one place to another; it cannot be controlled and can go everywhere and people aren’t even aware of it,” said Charalambous.

Furthermore, crops become infected and so does water extracted through land drills, both of which are used for human consumption.

Charalambous proposed the creation of a similar system to that of Greece and the UK, where the authorities use special filters to clean sewerage water and reuse it. “It is something worth doing, as it saves a lot of money and a lot of water, while minimising the possibility of contamination,” she pointed out.


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