Environment: European Commission urges Italy to address severe pollution issues at Europe`s biggest steel plant

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Source: European Commission, Environment DG

Brussels -- The European Commission is taking further steps against Italy in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of the ILVA steel plant in Taranto (hereafter 'ILVA'), Europe's largest iron and steel works.

Italy is failing to ensure that ILVA operates in conformity with EU legislation on industrial emissions, with potentially serious consequences for human health and the environment. The Commission has previously sent Italy two letters of formal notice, in September 2013 and April 2014, urging the Italian authorities to take measures in order to bring the operation of the ILVA plant into compliance with the Industrial Emissions Directive and other applicable EU environmental law (see IP/13/866).

Although some shortcomings have been addressed, a number of breaches of the Industrial Emissions Directive remain. Today's action, a reasoned opinion, concerns deficiencies such as lack of compliance with the conditions set out in the permits, inadequate management of by-products and wastes, and insufficient protection and monitoring of soil and groundwater. The Commission is giving Italy two months to reply.

Most of the problems stem from a failure to reduce the high level of uncontrolled emissions generated during the steel production process. Under the Industrial Emissions Directive, industrial activities with a high pollution potential must be licensed. ILVA does have a permit for its activities, but it is failing to adhere to the requirements in a number of areas. As a result, dense particulate fumes and industrial dust are escaping from the plant, giving rise to potentially serious negative impacts on the health of the local population and on the state of the surrounding environment.

Tests have shown heavy pollution of the air, soil, surface and ground waters both at the ILVA site and in nearby areas of the city of Taranto. The contamination of the Tamburi quarter of the city in particular can be attributed to the emissions from the steel plant.

Background

ILVA, Europe's largest steel plant, has been in operation since the 1960s, and has previously been the subject of other legal proceedings. The European Court of Justice condemned Italy on 30 March 2011 for not issuing industrial emissions permits to several industrial installations, including ILVA (Case C-50/10). 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.

The Industrial Emission Directive, which replaced the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive as of 7 January 2014, defines the obligations to be met by industrial activities with a major pollution potential. It establishes a permit procedure and lays down requirements, in particular with regard to discharges. Permits can only be issued if certain environmental conditions are met, so that the companies themselves bear responsibility for preventing and reducing any pollution they may cause. Permitting ensures that the most appropriate pollution-prevention measures are used, and that waste is recycled or disposed of in the least polluting way possible.

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