The European Commission took legal action against Italy on Wednesday over a growing crisis in Naples and the surrounding region where thousands of tonnes of uncollected waste have piled up high in the streets.
BRUSSELS -- The European Commission took legal action against Italy on Wednesday over a growing crisis in Naples and the surrounding region where thousands of tonnes of uncollected waste have piled up high in the streets.
"The television reports we have all seen showing piles of garbage rotting in the streets of Campania or set on fire by angry residents have been truly shocking," Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement.
"I urge the Italian authorities to act urgently to bring waste management facilities in the Campania region up to standard so that waste is collected and disposed of without endangering human health or the environment, as European law requires," he said.
Italy declared a state of emergency for waste in the Campania region in 1994. But, hindered by organised crime and local mismanagement, it has failed to stop periodic crises in which locals have no choice but to dump and often burn rubbish in the streets, adding to pollution levels.
Temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius (104.00F) in recent days have added to the discomfort of locals as authorities scrabble to find temporary waste dumps pending the opening of a giant new incinerator after the summer.
The European Commission took the first steps on Wednesday that could lead to a case against Italy in the European Court of Justice, the EU's top court.
"Reflecting the urgency and gravity of the situation, the Commission is giving Italy one month to respond to its warning letter instead of the usual two-month deadline," it said.
Brussels said the situation posed serious health and environmental risks through the spread of disease and through pollution of air, water and land.
It also said it was checking whether four planned new waste landfill sites in Campania meet EU law and if they will help solve the waste problems, especially in the longer term.