Small Grecian Village Demonstrates Problem with Coal

Is coal, as Senator Obama would have it, all that cracked up to be? A small village in Greece sure doesn't think so.

Arkini is a village in northern Greece about two miles from the country's largest lignite-fired electricity, which, according to the World Wildlife Federation, emits more carbon dioxide than any other coal plant in Europe.

Surrounded by mountains of toxic ash from the plant, the village is plagued by widespread breathing problems and an increasing number of deaths from cancer and heart disease. (The cancer-fatality rate in Akrini is at least double the national rate.) Now, the village is lobbying the state electricity board to relocate the 1,000-plus residents.From the International Herald Tribune:

Similar problems have been reported in villages around Greece's second largest lignite plant, in Megalopolis in the Peloponnese. In one of those villages, Valtetsi, air radiation levels are four times above normal because of "airborne ash containing radioactive isotopes," according to a 2002 study by the National Technical University in Athens.

The state electricity board, PPC, says it "respects environmental laws to the letter" and says pollution levels in Akrini are not high enough to justify the residents' request for relocation. "There are other villages that are even closer to our power plants," said Constantinos Melas, the mine director of the electricity board.

A study by the Kozani Technical College, conducted at the behest of the villagers, showed that the average daily presence of air pollution particles known as PM10 was 50 percent above the European Union's limit; studies in the U.S. show that high PM10 emissions reduce life expectancy by an average of 14 years.

And despite an E.U. endeavor to curb carbon-dioxide emissions reponsible for climate change, the state electricity board is refusing to stem its use of low-grade lignite. Instead, it's planning on increasing nationwide lignite operations, including an extension in Kozani that would bring the coal mine (and the mountains of ash) even closer to Akrini.

As someone famous once said: Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot? :: International Herald Tribune

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