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Trash piles in Beirut raise fears of an environmental crisis

A Lebanese woman passes by a pile of garbage on a Beirut street, Lebanon, Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Garbage is piling up on the streets of Beirut amid a growing dispute over tiny Lebanon's largest trash dump. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

BEIRUT (AP) — Garbage piled up Tuesday on the streets of cosmopolitan Beirut amid a growing dispute over tiny Lebanon’s largest trash dump, picketed by residents as it should have closed permanently days earlier.

The main company in charge of picking up the trash, Sukleen, had its workers sweeping Beirut’s streets, though not picking up any of the garbage. Typically, the refuse would have gone to the Naameh landfill, just south of Beirut, which has been functioning since 1997.

But Naameh was scheduled to close July 17. Since then, residents of Naameh and nearby villages have blocked roads to prevent trucks from reaching it to unload trash out of fears it could be reopened. That’s left Beirut’s residents dodging the growing piles of litter, now baking in the summer sun.

Sukleen spokeswoman Pascale Nassar said the company kept collecting trash until Sunday night, when their facility in Beirut could not take any more garbage. Nassar said Sukleen is waiting for authorities to offer them guidance on what to do.

Lebanon’s notoriously gridlocked government has yet to take any action on the issue ahead of the next Cabinet meeting on Thursday. Meanwhile, the trash pile grows as workers spray them with white powder to knock back the smell and spread of pests.

Environment Minister Mohammed Machnouk said after a meeting of parliament’s environment committee that there is no strategic solution for the crisis, though there are 670 dumps around the country that can be used.

“Trash has to be collected from the streets and this can only happen with everyone’s cooperation,” Machnouk told The Associated Press.

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