A decision made public on Thursday by a Council of Europe rights committee condemned Greek authorities for failing to take the necessary action to avert pollution in the Asopos River, which runs through the prefecture of Viotia, north of Attica.

The committee blamed pollution in the river water – which locals have long lobbied against, linking it to an increase in the incidence of cancer and other diseases among residents – on the failure of Greek authorities to meet minimum standards of water management and waste disposal by industrial manufacturers operating in the region.

A lawyer representing local residents said it was the first time an official document has accused the Greek authorities of violating rules and regulations governing the disposal of industrial waste, noting that the move could trigger a wave of legal action. “Residents can now start making claims for compensation,” Yiannis Ktistakis said.