Lifeguards at Governor’s Beach near Limassol had to raise the red flag and ban people from going into the sea on Monday because of pollution which caused itching and burning eyes.
The pollution – oil and other substances, yet to be fully analysed – is believed to have been produced by a passing ship, and it is not the first time beachgoers around Limassol had experienced pollution attributed to vessels going through the area.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, there have been dozens of complaints about the issue.
“Until now, the state has not assumed its responsibility with regard to the cleanliness of the sea, its supervision, prevention, and cleaning, excluding oil spills,” Limassol Mayor Andreas Christou said.
He stressed that despite efforts by the municipality, there have not been effective decisions on the matter but there have been “endless discussions and a search of who is responsible.”
Last Thursday, the mayor said, he had convened a meeting at the environment department to which “other government departments did not even bother to come.”
He charged that there was no will to take a political decision to set up a coordinating body, to appoint a head of service with the power and resources for all stages of maritime surveillance, to identify and punish those who pollute and remove pollution.
The problems have been identified before. The auditor-general’s report from 2014 sheds some light on problems with boats’ waste disposal.
“The responsibility for supervising proper waste disposal by boats is spread across too many services, with no clear indication as to who is in charge. Regular inspections are not carried out and no one was ever punished for violating the law,” the report said.
Indeed, apart from the municipality, the fisheries department, the department of merchant shipping, the ports authority, the environment department, and the health services are all involved, but nobody is in charge of coordinating their efforts.
Currently, the fisheries department, which is under the agriculture ministry, is responsible for oil spills and looking after fish farms only.
The department of merchant shipping, under the transport ministry, is responsible for the proper enforcement of all relevant laws and regulations. But to investigate a violation someone has to file a report first.
The ports authority is responsible for collecting garbage in the port and checking ship records whereas the environment department is in charge of land-based garbage dumped in the sea, such as illegal dumping via pipes. The department also takes samples of sea water and together with the health service’s state lab they test it and notify the department of merchant shipping in case of problems.
“We have been receiving complaints, especially in the Limassol area,” Chrystalla Stylianou from the environment department said. “However, though there have been visual problems such as foam we have not found contamination when we carried out lab tests.” Stylianou had not yet looked into the incident at Governor’s beach when contacted by the Cyprus Mail.
A study carried out by the University of technology (TEPAK) last year identified possible solutions to keep the sea clean.
Mayor Christou recalled on Monday that following the study the municipality took the initiative to purchase a boat with a special container to collect the solid waste found in the sea, adding that such waste can be found often.
As another result of the study dispersants are used by the municipality to combat oil slicks.
Other suggested solutions which have not yet been implemented are biological cleaning and installing a sensor system to detect pollution.
Despite the pollution detected at Governor’s Beach and his comments on Monday, the Limassol mayor said in a press conference two weeks ago that in general the water quality is excellent and the microbiological load is low.