La Terra di Sotto

Balangero (Turin) – 2019 – For almost a century, the asbestos quarry of Balangero was one of the most important asbestos quarry in Italy. Until 1990 here there were extracted Crisolito (known as “white” asbestos), but the deaths of more than 200 former mine workers from pleural mesothelioma was ascertained after epidemiological survey. The site is currently closed to the public and undergoing remediation with public funds.

The industrial landscape of Po Valley is known for many cases of soil and water pollution. As one of the four megalopolis in Europe, the area is one of the most important and rich industrial region of Europe.
The projects tells of a journey into the contaminated landscape from Turin to Venice, crossing the entire Po’ Valley region from East to West. Behind the apparent monotony of this flat landscape, which has hosted a bulimic industrial development since the 1960s, are hidden many tragic stories of environmental pollution. After decades of illegal waste trafficking and unstoppable industrial pollution, northern Italy, famous for its dedication towards work and great productivity, is beginning to realize the environmental and health impact of this disastrous season. The tangible consequences of illegal landfills, abandoned industrial sites begin to emerge, although they are still largely invisible.
In times of environmental upheavals, convince ourselves that the problem does not directly concern us is a dangerous mechanism. The creation of historical memory is the first step towards the creation of a broader environmental awareness that starts from local events to arrive at major issues such as microplastics, global warming due to polluting emissions and the role of waste in the future of the world and humanity. Why buy organic or short supply chain food if these originate from polluted territories? What relationship stands between the critical conditions of a specific environment and the increasing diseases that affect that population? What is the actual responsibility of the individual citizen in building a world where the waste will shape the landscape? Disseminating news, data, maps, images; sharing existing sources and regional statistics; everything serves the purpose of stimulating an awakening of the affected communities.

“La terra di Sotto” is a book, published by Penisola Edizioni in 2020.

The book is available (in italian language) from the website

Cavaglià (Biella) – 2019 – One of the quarries in the strip of land called “Valledora” straddling the province of Santhià, Biella, Vercelli. The area, a vast morainic belt, has been exploited since the 1980s for the extraction of construction gravel. The exhausted quarries have often been converted for landfill use. In the photo, the “Alice Ambiente” landfill site, which presents structural criticalities and leaks that can cause groundwater pollution.

The cover of the book “La Terra di Sotto”
Revisited map by Matteo Aimini of the region called “Megalopoli padana” (as defined by J. Gottman in 1978 and E. Turri in 2001).

Pernumia (Padua) – 2016 – The interior of the shed where more than 50,000 tons of hazardous waste were illegally stored, most of which came from combustion in industrial processes. The company was called C&C, and had been authorized to treat hazardous waste to be mixed with top quality material for the creation of raw materials for use in road works. The shed walls are collapsing due to the amount of waste stored inside.
Brescia – 2016 – An abandoned building south of the Caffaro headquarters. Several episodes of water and soil pollution originate from the Caffaro headquarters, the most serious case is the pollution from PCB (Policorobiphenyl), a chemical compound patented by Monsanto and diffused in the environment through the aquifer system. SIN Brescia-Caffaro represents one of the most serious cases of PCB pollution in the world.
Montichiari (Brescia) – 2016 – The town of Montichiari, and the village of Vighizzolo in particular, houses 16 landfills in the municipal area. Former quarries was converted to various kind of landfill, from solid urban waste to asbestos and other hazardous waste. The citizens complain of smells and exposure to a constant danger of contamination, as well as to a general exploitation and abuse of a territory called the “landfill of Italy”.
Turin – 2019 – The conversion of former industrial areas in the city of Turin has one of its landmarks in the Dora park and in the “Spina 3” area. The park is famous because, in addition to being lived daily by the residents, it is also home to a well-known festival of international electronic music. But the reclamation of the area has not yet been completed, and the piezometers placed around the site continue to detect quantities of hexavalent chromium in the waters above 2 to 60 times the legal limits.
Cerro al Lambro (Milan) – 2015 – Evidence of the isolation works of the illegal landfill containing acid slime and other dangerous industrial waste. The SIR (Site of Regional Interest) Gazzera was an illegal dump of acid slime resulting from industrial processes. Aerial surveys show how the area has been used as a landfill over 30 years, changing the flow of the Lambro river which flows a few meters away. Gazzera is considered one of the sites with the highest concentration of poisons in Italy.

The spine of the book “La Terra di Sotto” with a portion of the index map
Aeral map of grundwater and circular dendrogram showing the exceedances of the threshold values by type of pollutant.

Corteolona (Pavia) – 2018 – The remains of the shed and the plastic waste contained inside covered with towels to avoid contamination of the soil and aquifers. The shed was used as an illegal landfill by a criminal organization specializing in illegal disposal through the burning of waste. Northern Italy with its abandoned sheds is often used by the Italian mafia to illegally dispose of waste, which is often set on fire.
Porto Marghera (Venice) – 2019 – A wreck of a ship inside the industrial area of ​​the former Sirma of Porto Marghera. The area, which was heavily contaminated with asbestos, was at the center of a criminal trial due to a poorly carried out remediation: asbestos and other special waste were buried directly on the company’s land instead of disposed of according to the law.
Mantua – 2016 – The petrochemical center of Mantua has been at the center of major discussions for the pollution generated during years of activity. High levels of contamination from light and heavy hydrocarbons have been found in the soil, subsoil, stratum and sediment at the bottom of the canals in the area, adjacent to the Mincio river and the protected area of Mantua lakes.
Milan – 2015 – Built on the rubble of the ex-Montedison factory, the Santa Giulia district is one of the most important residential projects in the city. In 2010, when the first residential lot had already been built, the public areas of the neighborhood were seized for an investigation that revealed the alleged discrepancy in land decontamination operations. Since then a large area of the complex is still awaiting decontamination and new building projects.
Capriano del Colle (Brescia) – 2016 – View of the top of the landfill containing radioactive waste. The “Discarica Metalli Capra” landfill, located within a Regional Agricultural Park, surrounded by vines and farmhouses, was used to illegally bury radioactive foundry waste. The landfill represents a radioactive pollution hazard for groundwater and is under constant surveillance.
Milan – 2015 – The presence of foam is only the clearest evidence of the environmental criticalities along the course of the Lambro river. The river that flows at the gates of the city of Milan has for decades been the collector of the industrial and civil discharges of the production sites born on its banks during the twentieth century. Classified as one of the main vectors of pollutants in the Po river, the Lambro soil appears hopelessly compromised and the long renaturalization of the river is difficult and frustrated by numerous illegal spills.
Trissino (Vicenza) – 2017 – The Miteni headquarters, considered by the parliamentary commission of inquiry to be the main responsible for the pollution from PFAS, seen from the west side of Mount Bernuffi. Below, the Poscola stream where the company’s industrial drains have been spilled for tens of years.
Lonigo (Vicenza) – 2018 – The irrigation system of a private house where PFAS-contaminated water is used. PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl Acids) are odorless, colorless and tasteless chemical compounds. For years, from the tanning district of the province of Vicenza, compounds have been spilled into the aquifer and assimilated by the population through the aqueduct and private wells. Tens of thousands of citizens are exposed to one of the worst cases of water pollution in Europe.

Back cover of the book “La Terra di Sotto”
Map of the polluted sites based on the government’s open data (ARPA)

Marcon (Venice) – 2019 – A pile of plastic waste stay in open air at the “Nuova Esa” waste disposal plant. The waste treatment plant is where hazardous waste from all over Italy was treated with illegal procedure for years. The activity of the Nuova Esa was closed for investigation and led to the conviction of 13 people.
Rivalta Torinese (Turin) – 2019 – The remains of the industrial oil processing plants of the O.M.A. company, which in the 60s and 70s spilled processing residues and polluting sludge into a land near the Sangone stream. The company, which has been closed for bankruptcy since 2002, is undergoing an expensive remediation with an estimated cost of over 40 million euros to be paid by the public sector.
Desio (Milan) – 2015 – Illegal landfill of Molinara Street – Remains of buried waste emerge from spontaneous vegetation. In 2008, during the operation called “Star Wars” the Police discovered an illegal traffic of waste managed by affiliates of the ‘Ndrangheta. Currently there has been no characterization, and a dense spontaneous vegetation covers tons of unidentified waste.
Milan – 2014 – Remnants of burnt cars. For years, vehicles used by organized crime have been burned in this area of the southern suburbs of Milan. The waste from the fires was thrown directly into the irrigation ditches and streams that serve to irrigate a large agricultural area.
Porto Marghera (Venice) – 2019 – The torches of the Versalis chemical plant (property of Eni). The torches are activated as a safety system when the systems go into lockout due to production errors or other problems. The petrochemical center of Marghera, one of the most important in Italy, has caused serious environmental damage to the ecosystem of the Venice lagoon and it’s one of the worst case of land and water pollution in Italy.