Steel managers 'aware, unrepentent' says Taranto judge

'Unleashed harmful toxins, dioxins'

Steel managers 'aware, unrepentent' says Taranto judge

(ANSA) - Taranto, July 27 - Managers at the ILVA steelworks in Taranto that was partially shut down were "perfectly aware" of the harmful and toxic substances it was releasing, said an arrest warrant and plant-shutdown order made public Friday. The order was made Thursday to shut down much of the ILVA steel plant and place eight of its managers and ex-managers - including owner Emilio Riva - under house arrest. The judge's actions set off the protest and strike of thousands of steel workers desperate to save their jobs, but was greeted by environmentalists, doctors and the Taranto mayor as the beginning of long-overdue justice to remedy an environmental disaster that has caused grave illnesses and deaths in surrounding areas. "There is no doubt that those indicted were perfectly aware that steel production activities unleashed harmful, toxic substances (like dioxins) for human and animal health," but "there has been no sign of repentance, since they continued to poison the surrounding environment for years," wrote Taranto judge Patrizia Todisco in her arrest warrant and plant-shutdown order. "The emissions continued from 1995 and are still occurring with all their toxicity," not only directly affecting nearby residents, but also areas used by commercial farms for goat and sheep pastures. "The presence of the farms was known for years, yet for years nothing was done to prevent the dispersion of toxic dust that poisoned the environment where the farms operated," the judge noted, adding that ILVA's emissions contaminated 2,271 animals with dioxins and PCBs. The animals, which were meant for consumption, had to be destroyed. Epidemiological and chemical assessments completed this spring concluded that the steel plant's emissions had caused hundreds of deaths and high levels of other illnesses. Shutting down the steel plant was the only way to protect the health of Taranto residents, said Dr. Patrizio Mazza, hematologist at the Moscati hospital in Taranto, who complained for years about the high rate of cancer in the area. "The data are clear and indicate a 30% increase in tumors, as (the Italian national oncological association) certified in 2006, but also many other illnesses, from pulmonary to autoimmune diseases," Mazza said. "The only thing to do at this point is to close the plant, because even a reduction in emissions, let's suppose 10%, will do nothing to reduce the number of tumors. Genetic recovery takes time, and most of all requires the absence of the agents that caused (the damage)". Mazza called trying to remediate the environment and plant "useless", because remediation efforts "should regard an area of 1,600 square kilometers". "Our charges were founded. In 2009 we presented a complaint asking the magistrate to shed light on the environmental situation and the damages caused by the pollution," Taranto's mayor - a pediatrician - Ippazio Stefano told ANSA. The Taranto re-examination court will hear the case for repeal of the plant shutdown and arrest orders beginning on August 3.

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