The trash problem could be worse: north of Naples

They call it the Triangle of Death because of the cancer clusters. No, not Waycross: near Naples, Italy,

Jim Yardleyjan wrote for NYTimes 29 January 2014, A Mafia Legacy Taints the Earth in Southern Italy,

“The environment here is poisoned,” said Dr. Alfredo Mazza, a cardiologist who documented an alarming rise in local cancer cases in a 2004 study published in the British medical journal The Lancet. “It’s impossible to clean it all up. The area is too vast.”

He added, “We’re living on top of a bomb.”

Maybe it’s not that bad around the CSX railyard in Waycross, near the Seven Out Superfund site.

Garbage is a perennial problem in Italy as landfills run out of space, setting off periodic crises in cities like Rome and Naples. But the land of the Camorra, stretching from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Apennine foothills, is a particularly vivid tableau of ruined beauty.

Here in Lowndes County we’ve only got two closed landfills and one open in an aquifer recharge zone that has accepted PCBs, coal ash, and wastewater from Seven Out, plus the county’s Land Application Site.

And a Texas company that wants to run a yard-wide methane pipeline on a hundred-foot gouge through the county’s closed landfill. A company with a long list of safety violations.

Garbage is strewn along highways, tossed beneath overpasses or dumped atop irrigation canals. Rats search for food amid discarded sheets of asbestos, broken computer screens and empty paint cans. Plumes of black smoke often rise, the entrails of trash illegally burned from distant hillsides or abandoned fields.

The landscape is a result of decades of secret dealings between manufacturers in Italy and beyond, who sought to avoid the high costs of legally disposing of hazardous waste, and the Camorra, one of Italy’s three main mafia organizations, which saw the potential to make huge profits by disposing of it illegally.

Well, the Lowndes County’s Exclusive Franchise for Solid Waste Collection Services isn’t entirely secret; we do have through an open records request a copy of the contract. Although Commissioners offer only feeble excuses for it and the county continues to sue a local garbage disposal business even though the exclusive franchisee fails to recycle and before that included household trash in their recycled items.

But this part sure seems familiar:

“The mafia has made money on the garbage,” said Ciro Tufano, 44, an accountant who has spent two decades pushing officials to clean up a toxic site near his home. “Politicians must have been aware, but they don’t care. Nobody was tracking this trail of garbage.”

Few if any local politicians, as near as I can tell after asking several of them to do so, are tracking what goes into the landfill or what gets dumped into woods or burned because of the county’s Exclusive Franchise.

The acreage where waste is buried is relatively small, he said, but the risks are significantly higher because the dump sites are spread across such a large area.

“It flows all over the place,” he said. “You can be a farmer who is unwittingly irrigating your land with polluted water.”

Could this happen with a landfill in an aquifer recharge zone?

But not to worry:

“We’re polluting our own house and our own land,” the mobster said. “What are we going to drink?”

“You idiot,” the boss replied. “We’ll drink mineral water.”

That’s it! We’ll all drink mineral water.