Greenpeace declared today to be "a dark day for environmental
justice" as twenty eight senior managers of petrochemical companies
Enichem and Montedison were acquitted of charges of mass
manslaughter and environmental disaster by an Italian court this
afternoon. The managers had been accused of mismanaging their VCM
and PVC production plants, causing cancer amongst PVC workers and
environmental disaster in the Venice Lagoon.
"This is a dark day for environmental justice and for workers
and communities around the world whose lives are blighted by
exposure to toxic pollution caused by PVC manufacturing and
production. If industries are not held accountable for their
environmental crimes, they will continue to poison workers,
communities and the environment around the world. Today's society
should no longer tolerate this," said Domitilla Senni, Executive
Director of Greenpeace Italy, outside the court room in Mestre,
Greenpeace activists held a silent protest outside the courtroom
today out of respect for the hundreds of Enichem and Montedison
workers that have died or fallen ill as a result of the companies'
polluting practices (2). The case was instigated by the workers
when, in 1994, a retired PVC worker, Gabriele Bortolozzo,
approached public prosecutor Felice Casson in Venice accusing the
petrochemical companies of negligence and complaining that many
workers were falling ill.
Greenpeace analysis, published in 1995, revealed that sediment
in the Venice Lagoon is amongst the most contaminated with dioxins
in the world (3). The report led to further investigations into the
state of the industrial area of the Lagoon. These resulted in
charges of environmental damage and food contamination being
leveled against the petrochemical company managers. Dioxins had
been released by Montedison and are still being poured into the
Lagoon by Enichem and other industries of Porto Marghera, that use
chlorine as part of their manufacturing processes.
In December 1996, after Casson published a list of 257 victims
of the industries and submitted another 116 names of people who had
already died as a consequence of the substances they had been
working with, the managers were also charged with manslaughter.
Medical records, together with internal company notes, indicate
that the companies knew the risks their production processes posed
as early as 1972. The trial started on 13th of March 1998.
"The Venice Lagoon is just one of many areas around the world
that are being poisoned by irresponsible companies and, sadly,
these Italian workers represent just some of many that are
suffering as a result (4). Despite today's ruling, Greenpeace will
continue to expose the dangers posed by industries that use and
produce chlorine and do whatever it can to protect the environment
and communities around the world. There is no place for dirty
production in the 21st century," concluded Senni.