Volcanic Ash Cleanup Could Bankrupt Towns

Each eruption can cost Sicilian towns more than $1M
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2021 5:30 PM CDT
Sicilian Towns Near Bankruptcy Over Etna Cleanup
A hiker looks at Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano, erupting on July 4.   (AP Photo/Salvatore Allegra)

For the people of Sicily, the seemingly unending eruptions of Mount Etna are getting old—and expensive. Since February, the eruptions have been covering dozens of towns with volcanic ash that needs to be removed. Cleanup costs can top $1 million each time, the Guardian reports, pushing the towns toward bankruptcy. "We are facing a financial collapse," a volcanologist said. Italy's government set aside nearly $6 million on Monday to help some of the villages, and a new law removes the "special waste" designation from the ash that meant it needed special handling. "The law will significantly reduce disposal costs," said an engineer and local official, who added that the ash now can be used in agriculture as a fertilizer and in construction as a filler. "Of course, the problem also persists because Etna has not yet finished erupting," he said.

An eruption earlier this month sent a cloud nearly 7 miles above sea level, per Euro News. There was another eruption a week later, per Yahoo News. The ash then rains down on the towns; in fact, some people are using umbrellas for protection. "Streets, squares, roofs, balconies, cars—everything is covered in ash," an official in the town of Giarre said. "Since March, about 25,000 tons of ash have fallen on our town." Residents no longer have to wear masks because of the coronavirus, but they're being advised to wear them outside because of the ash. "It's getting really annoying," said a 74-year-old in the town of Trecastagni. "We spend the day removing the ashes from our homes. The problem is when it accumulates on the roofs, risking clogging the drain pipes." (More Mount Etna stories.)

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