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In a picture apparently taken near the Ilva steelworks in Taranto, in the south of Italy, a pool of water appears to have been turned entirely rust red.
According to the Solo A Taranto (“Only in Taranto”) Facebook page, which shared the image, it was taken near Taranto port, where ships load and unload raw materials destined for use at Ilva.
Iron oxide dust from the steelmaking process, combined with heavy rainfall, is believed to be the cause of the red waters.
Photo: SOLO A Taranto/Facebook
A delegate from the Italian metalworkers' union FIOM, Francesco Maggio, confirmed to La Repubblica that it was “pretty common” to see dust and red water cover the entire area around the port.
The picture prompted Genitori tarantini (“Parents of Taranto”), an activist group that accuses the Ilva plant of pollution, to write an open letter to the Italian government.
“Look at these pictures, gentlemen of the government of “this” Italy, and be ashamed,” they wrote in a message addressed to Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni as well as the minister of economic development and the environment. “Look at what you consider ‘strategic production for the nation'.”
“Here in Taranto, wind and rain are frightening.”
Residents have long complained of ill effects from the Ilva steelworks, ranging from red rain that stains buildings to toxic winds that have been blamed for an alarming rate of cancer among Taranto children.
Last month the city closed schools nearest the plant on days when wind was strongest, as part of a new environmental protection plan.
Ilva was placed under special administration in 2015 after its former owners were accused of negligence over toxic emissions.
A legal case is ongoing, with prosecutors arguing that the emissions led to nearly 12,000 premature deaths over seven years.