European Court condemns Italy for pollution at Ilva steel plant

ROME (Reuters) - The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday condemned Italy for failing to protect citizens from a polluting steel plant which has been blamed for hundreds of cancer-related deaths.

The Ilva factory in the southern city of Taranto was put under special administration in 2015, three years after magistrates said it had to be cleaned up or shut down.

The Strasbourg-based court ruled that the Italian state must pay 161 people who lived close to Ilva 5,000 euros ($5,648) each in damages after they brought cases in 2013 and 2015.

Ilva, Europe’s largest steel plant, has been blighted by labor unrest as well as environmental problems and was sold last year to ArcelorMittal days before it ran out of cash.

Besides the 1.8 billion euro cost of acquisition, ArcelorMittal said it would invest 1.2 billion euros to boost productivity and 1.1 billion euros to curb pollution.

However, the Court described the clean-up plan agreed, which is not due to be completed until 2023, as “extremely slow”.

“The persistence of a situation of environmental pollution

endangered the health of the applicants and, more generally, that of the entire population living in the areas at risk,” the Court said.

“The national authorities had failed to take all the necessary measures to provide effective protection of the applicants right to respect for their private life,” it added.

Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Alexander Smith