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Managers knew of dangers of toxic dump, say prosecutors

Waste contaminated water, food for many years

04 April, 15:42
Managers knew of dangers of toxic dump, say prosecutors (ANSA) - Rome, April 4 - Prosecutors told an Italian court Friday that managers at the now-defunct Montedison chemical company knew that acid in waste it dumped near the Adriatic city of Pescara could melt the cement containers it was held in and contaminate water tables. Italy's Higher Institute for Health (ISS) told the court Thursday that people living in and around Pescara have been eating mercury-contaminated vegetables since 1981. Mercury was found in fish and in the hair of Pescara-area fishermen as far back as 1972, the ISS added in a court-evidence report in the trial of some 20 managers and executives from Montedison, a large industrial chemicals producer active from the 1960s to the 1990s. The managers were put on trial in November 2013 for illegally burying 250,000 tonnes of toxic waste near a river in the Pescara area, contaminating the water table and the public water supply with heavy metals. Toxic spills reached as much as one tonne daily into the Tirino River, a prosecutor said Friday.

Charges against the managers include willful water poisoning, malicious endangerment of public health, and illicit trade in hazardous materials. Contaminated water has been distributed to roughly 700,000 people for years throughout a vast part of central Italy as a result, the ISS found in March. The ISS added that lead contamination is also a concern.

The State body said "even hospitals and schools" in the province of Pescara were victims of poisons that infiltrated the water supply from a massive toxic waste dump near Bussi sul Tirino, a small town located between two national parks and about 40 km from Pescara. Since 1901, Bussi has been an industrial site producing chemicals for both civilian and military use including tear gas, poison gas, explosives, and alloys for armored vehicles.

Beginning in the 1960s, the area's plants came under the control of Montedison, with production focusing on other highly toxic materials such as tetraethyl lead and methyl chloride.

Much of the area's population worked at Montedison plants.