BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Union is taking legal action against Italy over the festering garbage collection crisis in Naples.
More than 225,000 tonnes of backlogged trash has piled up on the streets of the southern Italian city since December.
That is when collection came to a near halt because officials say there is no more room at area dumps.
The European Commission says that excuse just doesn’t wash.
It says it is taking Italy to the European Court of Justice because Naples and the Campania region have not obeyed EU rules that require governments to pick up garbage and dispose of it safely.
It also sent Italy a written warning for failing to comply with an earlier court ruling that found the Lazio region around Rome has disobeyed EU rules that require a regional waste management plan. The court can fine Italy if it does not fall into line.
Although Italy has moved to clear rubbish from the streets in Naples and the Campania region, the EU said this did not go far enough to tackle long-term waste problems and prevent “a repeat of the unacceptable events seen over the past year.”
“The piles of uncollected rubbish in the streets of Campania graphically illustrate the threat to the environment and human health that results when waste management is inadequate,” the EU said.
It said Campania is still far from setting up an effective waste management system and Italian authorities have not given a clear timetable for when they expect to have much-needed waste treatment plants up and running.
When garbage piled up in the streets last year, schools were closed on health grounds and local people set fire to rubbish bags. The EU said this risked serious health and environmental problems because it could spread disease and pollute surrounding air, water and land.
The region has long been plagued by garbage crises. Dumps are packed to overflowing, and local communities have blocked efforts to build new ones, citing health risks.
Authorities and residents have blamed organized crime infiltration of garbage collection services, a disorganized bureaucracy and protests that hinder the construction of dumps and disposal plants.
Some Italian regions have recently volunteered to take Neapolitan garbage.