Naples official vows end to trash woes soon
Stars and Stripes May 20, 2008
NAPLES, Italy — Neither hope nor exasperation drive Gennaro Nasti to proclaim Naples’ trash woes will end Wednesday.
He says he’s compelled by necessity.
"The worst has passed. … It has to end Wednesday," said Nasti, who serves as representative of the Naples Energy and Environment Agency to a trash crisis committee created by Rosa Russo Jervolino, Naples’ mayor.
"Time has run out. There is no more time for talk. It’s time for action. … There’s no choice," he said. "With the weather heating up, we have to solve this problem this week. Period."
On Wednesday, recently elected Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will hold the first meeting of his new Cabinet in Naples, fulfilling a campaign promise to focus governmental attention on the trash crisis that has debilitated this southern Italian city.
The nearly 9,000 U.S. and NATO personnel living and working in Naples are not immune to trash woes. Rumblings of possible health risks associated with living here have prompted Navy officials to launch several studies.
Off-base residents can fill out questionnaires at health fairs at Capodichino on Tuesday and the Gricignano Support Site on Wednesday. Based on that information, scientists soon will collect samples of soil and tap water from 130 of roughly 1,800 off-base houses leased by personnel, according to a May 9 letter from Capt. Floyd Hehe, commander of Naval Support Activity Naples. Laboratories in Germany will analyze the samples, and results should be available 12 weeks after the collection of the samples.
Berlusconi, a conservative billionaire, won a third term to Italy’s top public office in April, vowing to crack down on crime and illegal immigration. He also promised he wouldn’t sleep until he solves Naples’ rubbish crisis and eradicates the practices of city and regional government that let the city be buried by tons of uncollected garbage time and time again for more than a decade.
He could be in store for some long nights.
Gianni de Gennaro, the "trash czar" appointed by Berlusconi’s predecessor, Romano Prodi, predicts another crisis of uncollected garbage will slam the city in July when the contracts to haul tons of refuse north to Germany expire.
Haulers stopped collecting garbage in December, saying local dump sites had no more room for it. The emergency commission headed by de Gennaro contracted for short-term solutions, such as having garbage hauled to other parts of Italy and European nations and reopening already-closed local dumps.
The mess lingers, and tensions reached fever pitch again last weekend as angry residents took stones and pelted firefighters who worked to extinguish hundreds of trash fires ignited by neighbors looking to rid the streets of refuse.
Burning the garbage not only is counterproductive, Nasti warned, it exacerbates health problems the protesters claim they are trying to combat.
"When the garbage is burned on the streets, it releases toxic fumes," he said.
Some 50,000 tons of uncollected garbage still line the streets of Naples and surrounding neighborhoods, according to media reports. In early May, the European Commission filed court charges against Italy, stating the government had repeatedly failed to put in place a plan to tackle the problem.
Navy officials post test results and health information on the base Web site, http://www.nsa.naples.navy.mil/risk/index.cfm, including answers to questions in six categories: air; food; garbage collection and recycling; health; health assessment; and water.