27 January 2003 00:00 [Source: ICB]Italian police have arrested 18 people, 17 of them EniChem executives, on charges of environmental pollution and criminal conspiracy, in connection with the company's production plant in Priolo, Sicily.
Investigations found that levels of mercury in waste water from the Priolo operation were some 20 000 times higher than the legal limits while the incidence of tumours and foetal abnormalities in the local populations was five times the national average.
Concerning the charges, EniChem said that it hopes the ensuing investigation will throw light on the matter and added that the operative structure of the company was run in respect of the law.
Much of the mercury originated from mercury cells used in the production of chlorine. This technology is being phased out across Europe but EniChem continues to use it.
Greenpeace has had ongoing discussions with the company concerning this, but according to Fabrizio Fabbri, scientific director for Greenpeace: 'EniChem never took any action on the matter and nobody ever investigated as to why they had not.'
EniChem has come under increasing pressure to clean up its production sites across Italy. But Fabbri believes that the costs involved in bringing production plants up to the required standards would not be too high.
'Some of EniChem's plants in Porto Marghera, northern Italy are more that 50 years old and it is not very likely that EniChem will want to spend money on the plant or the site.' Fabbri continued. 'I believe Porto Marghera is no longer a viable site, and I cannot see anyone taking the site from EniChem.'
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