Prosecutor orders part closure of petrochemical facilities in Sicily, one of EU’s largest

Refining facilities at the major Syracuse complex have been closed after a two-year investigation found they contributed to air pollution.

Prosecutor orders part closure of petrochemical facilities in Sicily, one of EU's largest
A refinery in Syracuse, Sicily. File Photo: micheleponzio/Depositphotos

On July 21, 2017, the prosecutor in Sicily ordered the closure of two major petrochemical facilities – part of the Syracuse refineries – according to Repubblica.

The prosecutor was responding to accusations of air pollution brought forward by a number of citizens and environmental groups.

The landmark case is a first for such a major EU industrial complex. One of the facilities ceased by police is owned by Esso, a trading name of US oil-giant ExxonMobil. 

The two plants made a “significant contribution to the deterioration of air quality due to plant emissions,” said Chief Prosecutor Francesco Paolo Giordano, according to La Stampa

In order to reopen, both the Esso and Isab North and Isab South sites will have to present new monitoring plans and implement several safety upgrades.

These include: To monitor the roof of all tanks containing volatile products or kept in temperature conditions such as to generate diffuse emissions, reduce the emission of toxic gases and upgrade emission monitoring data and tracking. 

According to national news agency Ansa, the parties have 15 days to accept the charge. 

Esso has also been ordered to improve its technology to reduce sulfur oxide emissions in two key towers and nitrogen oxide emissions in 21 others.

According to an investigation by Internazionale, the first impacts of pollution caused by the giant refinery – parts of which are abandoned and old – were first noticed in 1979.

Doctors began to perceive of a pattern of children born with deformities and irregularities were also perceived in fish. In 1990 the area was declared a “risk to the environment.” 

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