The ILVA steel plant, built in the 1960s, turned south-Italian Taranto into the most polluted city of western Europe

European Commission reprehends Italy for polluting steel plant

The European Commission has urged Italy to tackle excessive pollution produced by the ILVA plant, the biggest steel factory in Europe that turned south-Italian Taranto into the most polluted city in western Europe.

Built in the 1960s, the rather obsolete plant owned by Gruppo Riva, exhales huge amounts of dense particulate fumes and industrial dust, exceeding the limits outlined in Europe’s Industrial Emissions Directive.

The European Commission previously sent Italy two letters of formal notice, requiring the plant to be brought in compliance with the directive. Although some progress has been made, the plant still presents a major problem, contributing to severe environmental degradation and health hazard to the public living in the area.

In 1991 Taranto was declared a high environmental risk area by the Italian Ministry of Environment and is currently considered the most polluted city not only in Italy but in the whole western Europe.

Italy now has two months to respond to the Commission’s latest reproof. The Commission is mostly concerned with inadequate management of by-products and wastes at ILVA, as well as with insufficient protection and monitoring of soil and groundwater.

Under the Industrial Emissions Directive, excessively polluting establishments have to acquire special licenses, which require their holders to meet several criteria. Polluters are obliged to minimise impact of their activities on the environment and implement the most appropriate waste management and recycling strategies.

Although ILVA did obtain such permits in the past, it continuously fails to comply with the requirements in multiple areas.

Italy has been criticised earlier for its slack implementation of environmental policies. In March 2011, The European Court of Justice condemned the country for not issuing industrial emission permits to several industrial installations, including ILVA. On 4 August 2011 the Italian authorities then issued an integrated pollution prevention and control permit for ILVA, which was further updated on 26 October 2012 and on 14 March 2014.

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