By Mohammed Zaatari

SIDON: Efforts intensified Thursday to find a solution to the garbage crisis in Sidon and its surrounding areas after the city’s dump exceeded its full capacity, as concerned parties failed to reach an agreement to start operations at a solid waste treatment plant in Sinnik.

Caretaker Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal called on related municipalities Thursday to negotiate with the firm IBC, which owns the Sinnik plant. The parties have so far failed to agree over the price of processing one ton of waste, a prerequisite for starting operations at the facility.

During a news conference at the Environment Ministry, Sidon’s mayor, Mohammad Saudi, said the waste treatment plant was ready to be launched, but that the owners are demanding $135 to process one ton of waste, which the municipalities cannot afford.

Saudi said the Sidon municipality had proposed the Interior Ministry cover the operational cost of the plant, asking each surrounding municipality that uses Sidon’s dump to allocate 40 percent of its money from the Independent Municipal Fund to cover maintenance.

However, several mayors of south Lebanon villages surrounding Sidon had declined to allocate 40 percent of their budget to the plant, Saudi added.

Sidon’s municipality officials threatened two weeks ago to forbid municipalities in surrounding towns and villages to transfer their waste into the city’s dump if they fail to contribute to the funding of a waste treatment plant.

Rahhal said he thought the plant owners had raised the waste treatment cost above the price initially agreed upon because of an increase in the price of raw materials and operational costs. He urged the municipalities to hold talks to agree on a solution.

“We cannot look for long-term alternative solutions, such as resorting to the courts because garbage is piling up on the streets,” Rahhal said.

However, the mayor of Anqoun, Hussein Farhat said the agreement with IBC required the latter to process 180 tons of waste daily for free, and insisted that this agreement be implemented immediately.

Farhat hinted at the possibility of suing the company if it fails to comply with the terms of the agreement.

In a separate crisis, garbage started piling up for the second consecutive day in Tyre and surrounding towns after the Ras al-Ain municipality shut down its dump.

Trucks carrying 100 tons of daily waste were prevented from unloading at the dump after the municipality closed it after a two-month notice, asking that an alternative site be located.

The municipality took its decision after it was proved that the dump, which has been on the site for a quarter of a century, was contributing to the pollution of underground water.

Municipality guards at the location told The Daily Star that “25 years of suffering are enough” after nearby municipalities sought to convince Ras al-Ain to extend its grace period.