Turin - They were fully aware; of the landfills of buried toxic waste, and the discharge from plant machinery. They did nothing, or hardly anything, to prevent pollution from contaminating the groundwater, which is the third largest reserve in Piedmont. And for this, the executives and former directors of the Spinetta Marengo, Ausimont and Solvay chemical companies must be convicted. The Chief Public Prosecutor of the Appellate Court of Assizes in Turin made this argument in his summing up at the trial, currently taking place at the Palace of Justice. He asked for lengthy sentences for seven of the eight defendants: 17 years for Carlo Cogliati, Bernard De Laguiche and Pierre Jacques Joris; 16 years for Giorgio Carimati; 15 years for Francesco Boncoraglio, Luigi Guarracino and Giorgio Canti. However, the eighth defendant, Giulio Tommasi, cannot be prosecuted, because his crime is outside the statute of limitations.
The so-called “chromium emergency” broke out in Alessandria in 2008, when a company owning land adjacent to the former Montedison, then Ausimont and most recently Solvay factory, had analyses carried out in order to complete construction work. Hexavalent chromium levels up to one hundred times the legal limits were found. There were many more polluting substances, twenty or so of them. The Alessandria Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation, culminating in the first instance trial, which ended in December 2015 with a two-year and six-month sentence (suspended) for four out of the eight defendants. The charge in question is wilful environmental pollution. Public Prosecutor Riccardo Ghio argued the case.
The crime, wilful pollution of water and failure to clean up, is the same as the one charged by the Public Prosecutor of Turin, who has taken up the hundreds of documents produced, the reports from the NOE [Ecological Operations Unit of the Carabinieri], who conducted the investigations, the reports from Arpa and other inspection bodies, and the transcripts from [telephone] intercepts. Riccardo Ghio also initiated the Appellate Court proceedings, giving the first part of the closing argument. His transfer to Genoa prevented him from completing his work, which was completed yesterday by Prosecuting Attorney Nuccio.
The content of the accusation was no less significant: the managers knew the “mechanism of the pollution” and kept quiet about it, putting the groundwater at risk. Twenty or so civil parties were admitted by the Appellate Court, including the Ministry of the Environment, some associations which had first denounced the pollution, and employees and residents of Spinetta Marengo. The civil parties’ attorneys, who spoke immediately afterwards, also pointed out the inaction not only of the companies but also of the authorities in putting an end to pollution.
The study conducted by Professor Ennio Cadum, a consultant for the court of first instance, showed that there is a greater incidence of tumours among the inhabitants of the suburb of Spinetta than in the rest of the region. On 21 March, the date set for the next hearing, the lawyers for those held civilly liable will make their statements, and then it will be the turn of the defence lawyers for the first three defendants. The sentence could be handed down by the summer.