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Polluted earth and sea. For geologists, “the situation in Italy is critical”

In fact, in our Country there is a problem of land pollution covering 160,680 hectares and 133,060 hectares of sea; amounting to a total of 293 740 hectares to be reclaimed. The alarm was launched by Italian geologists ahead of their national congress, to be held in Naples 28 to 30 April.

Not only the Italian State steel company Ilva, and the “Land of Fires” (the area in southern Italy with toxic wastes dumped by the Mafia. Trans.’s note). From Casale Monferrato, Venice Marghera in Crotone and Brescia, to Brindisi and Gela, passing by Piombino, Terni and Porto Torres. They are just some examples of polluted sites in Italy.

In our country, in fact, there is a problem of land pollution covering 160,680 hectares and 133,060 hectares of the sea; for a total of 293 740 hectares to be reclaimed.

The alarm was launched by Italian geologists ahead of their national congress, to be held in Naples 28 to 30 April. In addition to the sites of national interest, covering almost 300 thousand hectares, there are 6 thousand regional sites that require remediation interventions. On the occasion of their national congress, geologists have set up, inter alia, a Technical  Committee on Reclamation and Pollution, coordinated by the President of the register of certified geologists for the Marche region, Andrea Pignocchi.

The situation in Italy is a critical”, he said,


as shown in a survey released by the Ministry for Environmental protection. Although the figures refer to 2014, they provide a simplified snapshot of the Country. Some of the sites’ extension and degree of pollution constitute veritable emergencies for the environment with serious consequences on public health, such as the Land of Fires in Campania.”


Sites of regional and national interest. Sites of national interest – such as Ilva in Taranto and Porto Marghera – whose complete list is available on the website of the Environment Ministry,  “have been included in a dedicated program that is followed by the same ministry. The decision stems from the fact that these sites have wide extensions, with serious impacts on the health of citizens – Pignocchi pointed out-. Sites of regional interest are taken from the population registry that each region has – or should have – updated to include smaller sites with risks for citizens’ health. National interest sites are those whose dimensions extend across several municipalities, or large industrial plants. Those at regional level, for example, are abandoned, decommissioned industrial sites, gas stations, handicraft businesses than went bankrupt as a result of the crisis.

Traditionally industrialized regions, such as Lombardy, have greater problems due to the presence of decommissioned industrial sites that have been incorporated within urban areas.”

Then there is the question of waste dumps to be reclaimed, as in Campania.”

Urgent reclamation. Given this situation, it is urgent to proceed with the remediation of contaminated sites. But it’s not that simple: “there is a problem of resource capacity – states Pignocchi -. Remediation measures are extremely costly.

Therefore, we must find a formula, through incentives, to make these sites attractive for conversion into residential, commercial centres, areas dedicated to recreation and leisure.”

This type of incentive, the expert pointed us, “involves another aspect that is very important for us geologists, namely, the drastic reduction of soil consumption. In fact, in this way, areas requiring social interventions are also regenerated, which is better than building on agricultural land or on green areas. In fact, very often, decommissioned areas are highly degraded, thereby degrading also surrounding urban and suburban areas.

Reducing soil consumption to the point of eliminating it, also means reducing hydrogeological risks


which have been the subject of years-long discussions, but for which little has been done in practical terms, at regional and national level alike.” Is it equally necessary to “review the currently complex and articulated procedural and authorization process. This does not mean outright simplification without controls, but to be given the time and tools to conclude the procedure.”


Improving the quality of life. Such measures would boost reclamations, “thereby improving the quality of life in the areas concerned and transforming the management of reclamations and landfills from environmental liabilities into economic growth opportunities, as a result of decommissioned land, at a time of socio-economic crisis.”

For geologists “it is urgent to take action in all contaminated areas, starting with decommissioned industrial sites that might not be of national interest or that are not in the spotlight, to start a virtuous circle of improved quality of life.”

As for the sites of national interest, said Pignocchi, “reclamation processes need to be managed and brought to completion.


This requires the political courage of allocating funds for the recovery of those areas.”

Objectives. The target of the Technical Committee on Reclamation and Pollution, set up on the occasion of the congress of geologists held at the end of April, is “to submit proposals to governmental and regional leaders. Current regulations overlap.

Our request is to bring them together into one, coherent regulatory framework specifically focused on land reclamation and soil and water pollution”, Pignocchi concluded.


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