1977: the increase of distrust

Seveso - manifestazione di protesta
Seveso – manifestazione di protesta


On 17 January 1977, the Region of Lombardy approved ordinance no. 2, that, pursuant to the provision converting the legislative decree of August 1976, defined the action plans to be approved by the Regional Council, and introduced simplified procedures concerning urban design, accounting, hiring and regulation of the proceedings. Each programme had to determine the specific objectives it wanted to achieve, competences of various agencies with respect to the interventions to be completed, time necessary for each intervention and total necessary amount to be allocated for each intervention. While the regional agencies were busy organizing, also at legislative level in the first months of 1977 the authorities had to face the problem of unauthorized entries into the contaminated areas by the evacuees, a situation that was repeated for many months. Between September 1976 and February 1977, the agencies which were responsible for monitoring “Zone A,” denounced the presence of unauthorized persons.

The unauthorized entries into “Zone A” were triggered by the condition of the “barbed wire fences which were largely damaged if not missing altogether.” To prevent this, on 15 February 1977, the prefect entrusted the army with the external surveillance of the most contaminated areas. The task was assigned to the command of the Third Army Corps, which assumed complete responsibility for the management and supervision of the area with the assistance of the police. This decision was made at the request of Golfari who “considered it an absolute necessity to prevent any unauthorized entries by the aforementioned persons and vehicles” which could “spread the harmful effects of the toxic substances to other areas.”
The return of the army to Seveso and Meda to oversee the contaminated areas contributed to increased tensions which were already high in the first place because of the stalemate in the cleanup operations, increase in chloracne in children and detection of the presence of dioxin in schools. As pointed out by the “Corriere della Sera” on 11 February 1977: “Over 200 children have been stricken with chloracne according to official information gathered during the first check-ups in some elementary schools. Contaminated organic materials measuring 3,100 cu. m are rotting, waiting to be burned in the incinerator that is still to be built, pending approval. There is the presence of an army of mice attracted by the waste materials, and so much disorientation in a population hit by a disaster for which nobody has been able or willing to give any solutions, so far. This is an analysis of the situation in exactly seven months after the incident in Seveso. Leaving out the various controversies and many good intentions, the projects previously announced have not yet been completed.” Even the mayor of Seveso revealed his present state of mind affirming: “It’s been seven months of living in constant anxiety and fear, with just your nerves to prop you up. These are certainly the worst moments so far. What do I do now? Shall I resign? It seems like a desertion. Yet, sometimes the temptation is strong. People are in turmoil. Where there was indifference, now there is panic and anger. There is a widespread distrust of the government.”
A few days later, on 17 February1977, in a long interview with Giampaolo Pansa for the “Corriere della Sera,” the mayor reiterated all his difficulties in managing a very complex situation where various “players” tried to “defend” their way of reasoning with force, like the la Roche Group that was a “powerful force” and still active in Seveso. They revealed their suspicions without giving any hard evidence, that the tendency to minimize the effects of dioxin came from Givaudan. In the same interview, the mayor of Seveso hoped for the creation of an “organizational-operational centre” in Seveso that could coordinate all the work to be done and address the various aspects of the problem.