BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Court of Justice upheld a decision against Italy over toxic waste treatment on Thursday, ruling it had failed to act against illegal dumps dotting the countryside around the southern city of Naples.
The court rejected an Italian government appeal and confirmed a 2007 ruling that blocked the payment of 46.6 million euros ($58.3 million) in European Union funds to improve waste management and treatment in the surrounding Campania region.
The funds made up half of a 93 billion euro program co-financed by Italy and the EU that ran between 1999-2008.
The scandal over the illegal dumps of highly toxic waste in Campania, once one of the most fertile agricultural regions in Italy, has festered for years despite promises by successive governments to tackle the problem.
The dumps and waste burn-offs, blamed for abnormal levels of cancers and other diseases among local residents, have been a lucrative source of income for the Naples mafia, known as the Camorra, and for unscrupulous businessmen operating in its shadow.
The scandal has moved beyond the so-called “fire country” in Campania as shady operators have sought opportunities in trafficking waste from around the world.
On Thursday, Miriam Cominelli, a deputy in Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party, requested the environment ministry to investigate allegations that waste was being imported illegally into the area around the northern town of Brescia.
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Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Tom Heneghan