Since 1977, the Galeria Valley in Rome has been the site of a landfill for disposal, treatment and recovery of waste’s facilities managed by the company CO.LA.RI. Environmental damages and health impacts, caused by these and other industrial structures already present in the Malagrotta area, have been leading to severe protests by local residents.
Since 1997, the European Union rebuked and threatened of sanctions the Malagrotta waste management authorities for violation of EU laws, which are also adopted by the national legislation.
After continuous deferment and authorities’ lack of intervention, in 2011 the government established the state of emergency in the area for the environmental and health impacts the landfill was causing. The closure of the landfill became then a must. Institutions decide then the need to build a “temporary” dump in order to allow the closure on Malagrotta. Authorities were called to choose a site to implement the provisional project.
The final and binding deadline was December 31st, 2012, and after meetings and negotiations failed, the Special Commissioner Monti Dell'Ortaccio chose a CO.LA.RI.’s site, located few hundred meters far from Malagrotta. The entire political class opposed the decision. The Galeria Valley’s inhabitants organized themselves in a new protest.
On September 30th, 2013, the mayor Marino and the governor Zingaretti triumphally announced the closure of the landfill. In reality,to date it continues the processing of the organic stabilized wet fraction.
The thirty-year presence of Malagrotta has therefore tightened the environmental and social consequences , exceeding several times the limits of safety and health guarantee. The impacts on the environment are enormous: groundwater and surface water, soil and air contamination, due to high presence of pollutants; landfills and incinerators’ fumes; noise pollution due to the machinery’s operation. The social ones are: damage to the quality of life and health of citizens because of the incinerator emissions and damages caused by the landfill. Studies carried out by ISPRA (Institute for Environmental Protection and Research) on Galeria Valley, detected levels of pollution caused by metals and organic compounds’ widespread contamination. Those levels could be easily comparable to cities such as Taranto, Brindisi, Livorno and Genoa, where major industrial centers’ are placed. Besides the unhealthy and unbreathable air - the most evident impact of the dump - the Arpa (Regional Agency for Environmental Protection) of Lazio, in a 2010 survey found out an extremely serious load of aquifer contamination. The iron levels reach 15,290 m/liter, despite a limit of 200 m/liter, and the same situation occurs for the levels of nickel and manganese. The arsenic comes to exceed by more than 200 times the maximum allowed, as well as the mercury, constantly exceeding law impositions. High amounts of ammonia nitrogen and high concentrations of bacteria were then verified by subsequent studies, as much as the underground aquifers are affected surface water, first of all the Rio Galeria, a small tributary of the Tevere River. Water problems particularly affect landfill adjacent areas. There, most of the soil exploited for agriculture or livestock farming, with highly damaging consequences for both the products and the food chain. Besides, the use of private wells became almost impossible because of contamination. Finally, It should be noted that, as regard to the water reserves of the area, the dispersion of leachate in the aquifer will continue for decades even after the closure of the landfill, thus making a constant and expensive monitoring urgent and necessary. The environmental damage had inevitably consequences on human health. A 2012 study, part of the "Waste, Environmental Epidemiology in Latium - Lazio ERAS" Regional project identified, out of a total of more than 85 thousand citizens, various diseases resulting from contact with the landfill pollutants and other plants located in the Galeria Valley (mainly SOx, H2S and PM10). Exposure to more dangerous substances favoured the emergence of respiratory tract, liver, pancreas, bladder and breast cancer. The rate of this diseases resulted as higher than the average imbalances, thus proving how the progressive and relentless pollution suffered by the territory reached and affected the population.
Finally, the economic impacts include public expenditure on the waste disposal in the Malagrotta landfill, possible payment of EU sanctions and land, buildings devaluation, thus causing a general loss in the area.
In order to protect citizens rights, to challenge the environmental damage and to expose the inefficiency of Malagrotta plants, residents have come together over the years in committees, organizations and associations. These have consistently acted and monitored the evolution of the landfill complex situation thus succeeding in the creation of the Galeria Valley Environmental Participated Observatory. In the observatory, representatives of local committees and companies should try to develop proposals to protect and safeguard the environment of the area. Committees are promoting a "zero waste” model, which starts from a door to door waste collection and informing initiatives, thus representing the opposite strategies proposed by CO.LA.RI. (the landfill operator), mainly based on the incineration and regeneration. The Malagrotta maintenance and the construction of the adjacent gasifier (active between April 2010 and October 2011 and subsequently blocked due to insufficient production) proved to be a questionable choice, and especially costly for the entire community. In addition to the obvious health threat, the presence of Malagrotta has imposed a sharp depreciation of real estate throughout the area, with considerable impact on residents' income; devaluation would achieved reductions between 25% and 30% compared to the market value. On Malagrotta and on the Italian government hangs an infringement procedure from the European Union, which stems from a series of irregularities regarding the waste management and treatment prior to landfilling. The infraction would then costs Italians tens of millions Euros.