Malagrotta: Rome faces new rubbish crisis after fire destroys waste plant

Kindergartens near fire site ordered to shut over fears of toxic fumes.

Rome has been plunged into a fresh rubbish emergency after a fire destroyed a major waste treatment plant at Malagrotta, the city’s former dump west of the capital.

More than 60 fire-fighters battled all night to get the flames under control as the city ordered the closure of all kindergartens and summer camps within a six-km radius of the site over fears of toxic fumes.

Once Europe’s largest landfill site, Malagrotta closed as a rubbish dump almost a decade ago but is still used for processing Rome’s garbage.

Crucially, Malagrotta contains one of the city’s two TMB waste treatment plants, which processes 900 tons of trash every day.

Rome produces around 3,000 tons of rubbish a day, much of which is sent abroad or to other Italian regions at exorbitant costs, reports newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Describing it as a “serious emergency”, Rome mayor Roberto Gualtieri said the fire will have “inevitable, immediate consequences” on the city’s already troubled waste collection and disposal system.

As police launch an investigation into the cause of the blaze, city authorities are holding crisis talks to identify other treatment plants where Rome’s rubbish can be sent.

People living near Malagrotta have been advised to keep their windows closed for 48 hours to keep the foul-smelling fumes out of their homes and not to eat any food produced in the area.

The loss of the Malagrotta waste treatment plant comes as Gualtieri grapples with the city’s rubbish crisis and pushes ahead to build a massive waste-to-energy incinerator at an unidentified site in Rome.

In recent years fires have destroyed other major waste treatment plants at Via Salaria and Rocca Cencia, with authorities unable to ascertain whether or not the cause of the blazes was malicious.

Photo ANSA