Garden waste site at Coral Bay still smouldering

By Bejay Browne

A FIRE at a garden waste site close to Coral Bay near Paphos is still smouldering and producing billowing black smoke, 12 days after fire services battled to put it out. It is now closed and unlikely to re-open.
A spokesman for the fire department told the Cyprus Mail that although they left the scene after the blaze was brought under control, they are still closely monitoring the situation and warned that it could continue to burn for days to come.
“This is the biggest fire we have witnessed at a rubbish tip for some years and due to the nature of the material and the fire burning so deep, it will probably continue to smoke for a while yet.”
He added that as mostly biological waste has been dumped at the site, biological processes will continue to feed the fire but that nearby homes are not in danger.
But the fire is still producing choking smoke and has caused numerous complaints from the nearby Crown Resorts hotel, as well as residents, visitors and businesses at Coral Bay.
Although the municipality acted quickly and sent in bulldozers to try and control the fire, rumours are rife that it was deliberately set by the municipality. Some residents phoned into a radio programme to say that when they first complained to the municipality they were told: “Don’t worry it’s under control, we set the fire.”
However, the mayor of Peyia, Neofytos Akourshiotis has denied any wrongdoing by the municipality and branded the fire a malicious act, calling on the police to investigate the incident.
The fire services confirmed that a police investigation to uncover the reasons for the blaze was underway, but locals have pointed out that work by the municipality to douse the front half of the fire closest to the entrance by covering it with soil carried by bulldozers, must have contaminated the scene and perhaps destroyed evidence.
The enormous waste site was created as a temporary measure by the previous council to be used for a year, that was more than five years ago.
The blaze was reported early on Monday afternoon February 16 by Peyia councillor Linda Leblanc and the fire services were alerted. They bulldozed fire breaks to try to contain the blaze.
“The levels of continued air pollution are unacceptable,” she said.
But Leblanc added that the dump’s closure also now presents a problem for people disposing of garden waste.
“For five years I have been trying to purchase a mobile shredder which could be fitted to one of our garbage trucks. We could shred garden waste on the spot, the material could be composted and disposed of at the proper site which we have a licence to do.”
Other, more environmentally friendly ways to deal with the waste have so far failed. “The waste can be chipped, composted and sold. This was tried a few years ago, but as the waste is mixed with other items, it failed,” she said.
The councillor said that the waste tip highlights the problems of uncontrolled development without any infrastructure .In the last ten years, 7,000 new property units were built in Peyia and the population has more than doubled.
“There are massive amounts of garden waste in Peyia, as there are many properties with large gardens. Illegal dumping got out of control not only causing flooding but was a fire hazard and was blocking ravines,” she said.
In the past, the unsightly mountain of waste, standing at least 15 metres tall, brought complaints from residents and tourists.
Leblanc said that people were even travelling from Paphos to dump waste at the Coral Bay site and it was then decided to implement proper controls. This included a fence, charging people for the service and a staff member on site.
“Despite this, around 10 per cent of the waste still isn’t garden garbage but items such as plastic sunbeds and mattresses.”
The ministry of the interior has brought in new waste management programmes and introduced ‘green points’, where each area has its own designated point.
“Ours is at the old quarry site in Akoursos, but it’s been delayed. The area has been prepared and fenced off, I believe the tender process for the handling of the area is the next step,” said Leblanc. “But even when it’s up and running I don’t know if it’ll be able to handle the huge amount of waste produced.”