Cyprus Mail

Bases deny disposing of asbestos in Cyprus (Updated)

THE British Bases on Thursday denied media reports that they had disposed of asbestos waste in Cyprus.

The announcement follows an extensive article in Phileleftheros on Thursday which, citing sources, said that the government gave permission to the Bases to bury asbestos waste at the mine where the mineral was extracted from, in Amiandos.

According to confirmed sources, the daily said, the agreement made with the government was for the burial of 50 containers filled with asbestos material which was removed from the territory of the SBA.

“It seems the permission was given by the Geological Survey Department, which arbitrarily determined the price for the materials which will be transported for burial in the mining crater at the Asbestos mine,” it said. It added that the price set was at €16 per cubic metre.

The standard practice of the Bases has been, the article said, to ship the containers with asbestos waste to the UK. The Bases, it said, produce 70 to 90 containers of asbestos waste each year.

“The management costs paid by the Bases today are too high,” the article said, and for this reason they opted for disposing of the asbestos waste in Cyprus. It added that Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis told the paper he was not aware of such an agreement.

In the past asbestos was widely used worldwide for the construction of buildings. It is however considered today as highly hazardous for human health, and its removal from old buildings is not uncommon.

“Reports in today’s media that the Bases have disposed of asbestos waste in Cyprus are untrue,” spokesman Sean Tully said in an announcement.

“We investigated the possibility of disposing of asbestos waste in Cyprus. However, following discussions with the department of the environment we decided to continue to ship all of our asbestos waste to the UK,” he said.

Tully told the Cyprus Mail that part of the asbestos waste is from old barracks that are gradually being demolished.

In a statement released later on Thursday, the Geological Survey Department (GSD) confirmed that the British Bases had queried them on the possibility of burying asbestos waste at the Amiantos mine.

The initial query was made on September 2, 2015. Following that, the department sought advice from the foreign ministry, “due to the potential political dimensions.”

The foreign ministry responded that it saw no political issues, advising that the British Bases’ query “be handled as a technical matter.”

According to the GSD, it subsequently put the matter to the Technical Committee for the Amiantos Asbestos Mine which, after a thorough consideration decided to accept the British Bases’ request.

The technical committee comprises the GSD, the Water Development Department, the Department of Forests, the Town and Housing Department, the Department of Environment, the Department of Labour Inspection, and the Ministry of Health.

The British Bases were also informed of the standard disposal tariff per cubic metre (€16).

In its statement, the department noted that the burial of asbestos-containing materials at the Amiantos mine was authorized by the cabinet on November 26, 2009. The decision concerned the asbestos waste generated during the period 2009-2019.

Following the agreement of the Technical Committee for the Amiantos Asbestos Mine, the GSD asked the British Bases to provide further details on the total amount of waste it would seek to bury on an annual basis.

On May 5, 2016, the bases responded with an estimate of around 30 to 40 containers.

The GSD said it subsequently requested precise numbers so as to be able to properly evaluate the matter.

To date, however, the British Bases have not filed a formal disposal request, the GSD said.

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