ITALIANO | ENGLISH
 
          NEWS* | BELLADANZA | VIDEO* | CAMPAIGN | COMBUSTION?* | LANDFILL | CONTACT | IMPRESSUM
          BELLADANZA >>> PICTURES | ORIGINS | COMMITTEE


The story of Belladanza is, unfortunately, a story similar to dozens of other terrible stories that are part of the vicissitudes of modern industrialized countries. Landfills are started because, with the increase of economic well being, both individuals and industry produce steadily increasing amounts of rubbish. Often people will throw away their trash when and where no one is looking, as was initially the case at Belladanza. Ideally, trash is disposed of in a place where it will have the least impact, as the State tries to maintain health and environmental standards. But these efforts are futile, as some officials discover that large sums of money can be made by “managing” these landfills, and human health and environmental considerations are brushed aside by greed.

The Tragic Heritage of the Superhighway
The Plan of the ENEA
The Years of the Accidents
The "Myth" of the Stink
The Mystery of the Trucks in the Night
The Swindle of the Rio Bridge
The Nightmare of the Expansion
The Horror lives in the Region

The Tragic Heritage of the Superhighway

In 1978 the town of Citta di Castello found that it had to deal with a hill that in previous years had been brutally cut at its base for a sand quarry. The sand from the quarry was used mostly for the construction of a highway to connect Orte (and therefore Rome) to Cesena. The road opened up to the world these valleys, which for centuries had been cut off from the economic and cultural development of the rest of the peninsula. Once the highway was finished, the hole in the mountain remained abandoned. The years which followed were the years in which the cultivation of tobacco became more important to the economy of the Alto Tevere, and the tobacco industry also excavated from the quarry. The citizens subsequently began to indiscrimately dump all kinds of rubbish into the hole, creating a real sleeping monster which was buried under a few centimeters of clay. There were no controls. The first task of Citta di Castello was simply to take control of the land where everyone was already throwing rubbish and to begin to try to create order out of chaos. But it was useless. Ten years later, the mountain of trash was still growing.

The Plan of the ENEA

In 1988 Citta di Castello and the Region of Umbria decided to change their strategy. After consultation with political, social and trade-union representatives and the engagement of some of the most advanced Umbrian technical studios and in coordination with the researchers and the scientists of the ENEA (Ente Nazionale per l’Energia e per l’Ambiente), the landfill of Belladanza was born as a pilot project for a system then in the vanguard in the use of biogas and the safe disposal of refuse. Based on the averages of increase of the production of refuse in the Alto Tevere area, the ENEA and the technicians involved in the project estimated that the landfill would be full in 20 to 25 years, after which the entire zone would be closed and reclaimed. The citizens of the area supported the plan, convinced, as they were, that it would bring benefits to the Valley and that it would not be dangerous like other landfills.

The Years of the Accidents

Unfortunately, the management of the landfill ended up in the hands of the politicians and became a business. In 1988 Citta di Castello founded Sogepu SpA - a company that oscillates between public and private, between the need for transparency with regard to the population and the unspeakable secrets of the local administration. In the span of a decade Sogepu became a kind of polyp with a thousand heads that manages not only various landfills of the Alto Tevere (three in the territory of Citta di Castello alone) but also many swimming pools and theaters in the area. Beginning in 1991 the landfill of Belladanza began to have accidents of increasing gravity due to carelessness and the failure to observe the rules established in the original project. Following a first incident in which toxic remains from the landfill were discovered in the Gracciata River in 1992 and 1993, Sogepu was repeatedly forced to cover up the consequences of the errors commited by the management of the landfill. The effect was that the traditional wells (which the local inhabitants had been using for centuries) were poisoned and closed. The citizens reacted in a surprising way: they stopped having analyses done of their wells and of the Gracciata, for fear that the sanitary authorities would take away the drinking water that they use to water their fields. As a consequence, because of Belladanza, there are agricultural products on the market today that are probably poisoned. The same water that is poisoning the crops ends up in the Tiber and runs towards Rome, polluting all of the water strata for hundreds of kilometers. Even the checks of air quality are carried out by Sogepu in secret and the results of the analyses are revealed to no one. The reason for the secrecy is left up to the imagination of the inhabitants.

The “Myth” of the Stink

The voice of the Comitato Ambientale di Belladanza (CAB), an organization that has been fighting for the health and the environment for almost twenty years, was heard as far as Rome. “L’Italia in diretta”, a RAI2 program hosted by Alessandro Cecchi Paone, aired an aggressive news program about Belladanza. The Mayor of Citta di Castello at that time, Alfredo Orsini, was ridiculed by the RAI journalists. Dott. Ing. Ennio Spazzoli, the director of Sogepu, in response to citizens complaints about the smell from Belladanza, insulted them by responding with something to the effect of “Come on, for centuries you have lived with goats and cows in your homes that stink like the plague, and now you are being fussy about a smell which is not as bad?” A citizen is ready with his reply: “I knew where that smell came from and I kept it under control, and you?” Unfortunately, the diversion worked, and the entire RAI program was about the “myth” of the stink, while the fact that Belladanza was responsible for poisoning the Tiber River was not mentioned at all.

The Mystery of the Trucks in the Night

At the beginning of the new millenium, Belladanza was faced with a new problem. The rubbish produced from the area of the Alto Tevere was no longer sufficient to guarantee that the landfill would make a profit. At the same time, most of the other Umbrian landfills were quickly approaching capacity and closure. Sogepu sniffed the scent of money and began to process larger and larger quantities of refuse coming from the most unexpected parts of Italy. The trucks coming from the South arrive mainly during the night, in the hope of not being too visible. Sogepu swears that no toxic wastes are being received by Belladanza, but videos made by the local citizens show otherwise: car batteries, paints, chemical residues, car tires, oil containers and the like. Above all, the quantity of rubbish arriving has proved to be too much. The means at the management´s disposition no longer permit the secure disposal of the trash, which now, practically untreated, is piled up to 30 meters high. The employees, in a dance with death, desperately try to impose order on the mountain of trash with their seemingly toy-sized bulldozers.

The Swindle of the Rio Bridge

In 2005 Sogepu received a hard blow. An order from the Region of Umbria required twelve towns of the Alto Tevere to send their refuse to Ponte Rio, near Perugia, for so-called preselection. The towns were to pay Ponte Rio 60 € per ton, plus trucking expenses. After being treated at Ponte Rio the refuse was to end up at Belladanza at the price of 21 € a ton. This meant that the AltoTevere would lose millions every year, instead of earning through Sogepu, as had been hoped. So Sogepu abnegated all of its previous agreements: the energy from biogas was sold to ENEL and not given to the inhabitants of the zone. The social benefits became zero. The landfill was also opened to special materials of secret provenance - which obviously leads to the most alarming conclusions.

The Nightmare of the Expansion

At the rate at which it is presently being filled, Belladanza will reach capacity long before the estimated date. There are varying calculations, the most “pessimistic” of which are based on the supposition that by 2009 Belladanza could arrive at the end of its lifespan as set out in the plan of 1988. To solve this problem Sogepu has the following idea: doubling the tonnage of the landfill, cutting further into the mountain, expropriating additional land on the banks of the Gracciata river and destroying 30 hectares of forest. In addition, an infrastructure investment of over 14 million € will be required in order to achive independence from Ponte Rio. Sogepu proposes to finance this expense with its own means - which is money from the town of Citta di Castello, which owns more than 60% of the company and is the majority shareholder. Sogepu blackmails the inhabitants and the Town Council: Either you double the landfill or you are dismissed. The Region of Umbria blackmails in its turn: Either you double the landfill or we will run it ourselves from Perugia. The great battle over Belladanza begins.

The Horror Lives in the Region

Carlo Marsciarri, the President of the Comitato Ambientale di Belladanza (CAB), said it first. For years the CAB had been fighting against the landfill. It took the inhabitants, including members of the New Committee for Belladanza, time to understand that the enlargement of Belladanza, WHICH WAS NEVER INCLUDED IN ANY REGIONAL RUBBISH DISPOSAL PLAN PRESENTED TO THE PUBLIC, ON WHICH AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDY WAS NEVER DONE and WHICH IS CONTRARY TO ALL OF THE EXISTING LAWS AND AGREEMENTS, was considered a done deal by the umbrian government - above all, by the President of the Region, Maria Rita Lorenzetti and the head of the Office for the Environment, Lamberto Bottini.