A land of contrasts in the center of Etruria
“Solvay is a science-based company committed to supplying products and materials that benefit the community. That’s why we set ourselves far-reaching goals with our sustainable development strategy. It’s a safe and controlled manufacturing process that uses natural materials.”
So says the website of Solvay, a chemical company that has been in operation in Rosignano along the Livorno coastline for more than a century. It’s located in the center of Etruria, an area that’s rich in history and art, immersed in typical Tuscan landscape consisting of rolling hills and Mediterranean scrub. In actual fact, according to a UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) report from the early 2000s, the coastal stretch of Rosignano Marittimo is on the list of the 15 most polluted places in the Mediterranean. The E-PRTR (the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register) website states that in 2019 alone Solvay discharged 5.7 tons of lead, 15.7 tons of zinc, 1.5 tons of arsenic, 2.9 tons of nickel, 122 kg of cadmium, 131 kg of chromium and 41 kg of mercury into the sea.
And, according to a report by CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, the National Research Council) in Pisa, Solvay has discharged 400 tons of mercury and other pollutants into the sea over the years. The very white Caribbean-like beach washed by turquoise seawater at Rosignano is the product of a century of chemical discharges that reach the sea via a ditch. This is fed by a milk-colored stream containing substances spilled by the factory. Inland, the exploitation of natural resources focuses on the extraction of rock salt, thereby creating additional environmental problems.
Many local residents consider Solvay to be a danger to the environment and human health, although there is no shortage of supporters of those who, in the early 1900s, favored the construction of the town, in order to create an economy in this area.