From: Geri Ermiri
The Trash Time Bomb in Porto Romano

“The most urgent environmental concern in the Municipality of Durrës is the deposit and treatment of solid waste. The deposit of Porto Romano has been turned into a time bomb. In this context the solution of a new deposit for the solid waste is urgent and strategic,” concluded the Municipality of Durrës and the Institute for Cooperation and Development in the Territorial Analysis and Evaluation.

The “time bomb” is located 3 to 4 kilometers north of the city of Durrës. It has a surface area of 80.000 sq.m. filled with urban garbage, dangerous wastes and dead animals. Every day three municipalities enrich the “structure” of this “bomb”: Durrës, Shijak, and Kavaja. Its camouflage has been achieved by allowing construction projects nearby, in the field of Porto Romano.

According to the Local Waste Management Plan for the Municipality of Durrës 2010–2025, the city deposits its waste in the only available field, that of Porto-Romano, which is a dumping ground opened in the early 90s that was anticipated to to be operational for 25 years (till the year 2015).

Air and underground pollution
From the monitoring of the first half of 2012, the air quality in the municipality of Durres appeared problematic, as a consequence of an increase of PM 2.5 and PM 10 particles. Among the factors that contributed in this situation in the Territorial Analysis and Evaluation, was the burning of the waste in the landfill area.

In relation to water pollution, it also mentioned “unsafe landfill locations such as Porto-Romano,” regarding underground water sources and the aquifer zones (underground water-bearing layers). Additionally, the deposits at Porto-Romano and the current deposits of the administrative units risk polluting the phreatic zones (saturation zones in the water-bearing layers) because of their shallowness.

According to the Local Waste Management Plan, the environmental performance of the landfills is catastrophic because of potential emissions. The landfill suffers from waste pollution; liquids running from the landfill end up in the underground waters and the sea; the uncontrollable emissions of bio-gases create fire that bur down the entire site during the dry season, releasing large amounts of dioxins.

An investigation of several months by Citizens Channel has shown that the waste is burning continuously, without interruption, throughout the year.

The waste burning at the Porto Romano landfill. Photo: Geri Emiri / Citizens Channel

“The waste landfill in Porto Romano is a poisonous depot with open doors,” Xhemal Mato, an expert of solid waste, expressed to Citizens Channel.

Mato further adds that the landfill is completely without standards, without fence, where the animals use the polluted water to drink. This water goes into the sea influencing its ecosystem, for which no studies on the level of pollution have been undertaken.

Meanwhile the Enterprise of Communal Services of the Municipality of Durres, informs us that it lack proper capacities to do undertake studies over the level of pollution.

People and animals living with the garbage
If you go in the landfill early morning, you will probably think it is a mine. With a torch mounted on their heads, the adults continue to work through the night to gather plastic cans, cards, tin cans, and scrap metal. From this activity, they report to Citizens Channel, they manage to make around 1,000 lekë per day.

Meanwhile you will find children usually during the day. Some after they finish their school, others follow their “classes” by digging through the garbage created by three cities. The trucks bringing the garbage are their “public transportation.”

“This is the garbage truck of Kavaja, I will stop him so that I can go with him to the landfill,” says a young man who has been sent to sell cans and scrap metal.

Children using the garbage truck as transport. Photo: Geri Emiri / Citizens Channel

There are over 50 people per day who work here. They live around the area of Porto Romano or Shën Vlash, coming from different parts of Albania. The nearby inhabitants across the road see the landfill as their only job opportunity and say that they replaced their shacks with houses made of bricks by working in the landfill. This has huge health repercussions, such as different infections, diseases, and fractures.

While the inhabitants of Porto Romano show how the garbage burning is poisoning them every day, while the middle school “Met Hasa” is only a few minutes away from the landfill.

Animals enter and roam freely in this epicenter of disease, by consuming the garbage and drinking in the polluted waters. Cows, dogs, and mostly pigs are found everywhere. For them there is plenty of food! The Enterprise of Communal Services informed that over 2015 a total of 67.000 tons of waste were deposited.

According to art. 45 the Law on the Veterinary Service, veterinary structures in the units of local government must:

c) identify the pastures and drinking water locations, depending on the epidemiological conditions, and if necessary prevent their use; ç) control and adopt the legislation in power for the elimination of street cats and dogs; e) take measures for the enclosure and safeguarding the  sewage water collection points and prevent animals from entering there.

The observations of Citizens Channel show that this has not been implemented: the pasture for these animals is the landfill and the drinking water is the sewage. Around the landfill and in the sewage water system there is no sign of a fence as well as no warning sign allowing animals to move freely in the area.

The Durrës municipality informed us that

the continuous and frequent inspections done by the veterinary inspectorate of Durrës Municipality have shown that in this zone there are animals (mostly pigs) that graze around in the landfill of Porto Romano. This zone is not appropriate for their grazing but these animals are not sent to the city’s slaughterhouse […]. These animals are used by the inhabitants for personal consumption and the this cannot be controlled by the veterinary inspectorate.

But the establishment of “barns” beyond any hygienic standard near the landfills and the residents’ testimonies that the animal herds are in fact sold off, don’t justify the use for personal consumption.

Landfill beyond any standard!
In the new municipality of Durrës, which also includes Kavaja, the accumulation and deposit of urban waste is currently done by a number of institutions: two public cleaning enterprises (Municipality of Durrës), two private companies, and three directorates. The Municipality of Durrës is the main responsible authority for the waste managing service in the city of Durrës. Both enterprises are run by the Municipal Council, and are financed by the Municipality’s budget.

According to Territorial Evaluation and Analysis, prepared by the Municipality of Durrës and the Institute for Cooperation and Development, the territorial reform necessitates the reorganization of the two public enterprises in order to cover the while territory of the new municipality.

As Citizens Channel has observed, and based on the Local Waste Management Plan, the landfill of Porto Romano doesn’t have:

  • protective water layer for the water to avoid underground penetration of liquids accumulated in the landfill;
  • border barriers;
  • accumulation system for waste infiltration;
  • accumulation plant for surface (rain) water;
  • a network to collect bio-gases;
  • daily coverage of wastes to avoid winds and garbage burning;
  • internal road network
  • landfill office
  • facility for the manual separation of waste.

The garbage collectors stay at the top of the waste to separate them, there’s no fence, and there’s also no weighing system or a car wash for cars entering and leaving.

Lanza Landfill as solution? 
A research supported by the World Bank by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has determined the construction of an up-to-date, modern landfill for the County of Durrës, in the village of Rada. On November 18, .2014, the Ministry of Environment together with the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure opened a public procurement procedure for a concession for the “Landfill for the County of Durrës.” According to the sources of Citizens Channel, this process has stopped.

Nevertheless, “a new process has began construction a new sanitary landfill with a total of 15 acres. This service will cover the whole territory of the municipality of Durrës and will create the opportunity of opening 1,500 new jobs. The costs are estimated to be around €6.5 million Euro,” it says in Territorial Evaluation and Analysis.

This article was first published by Citizens Channel, translation by Exit.