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Smelly Algae Scare Tourists, Kill Fish

August 19, 1988

MILAN, Italy (AP) _ The rapid proliferation of smelly, slimy slicks of algae along Italy’s northern Adriatic coast is scaring away tourists, killing fish and sparking cries for the end of dumping untreated wastes into the sea.

Mayors of seaside resorts in the Romagna region - with its jammed beach establishments one next to the other - say tourists have fled and reservations for the rest of the season are down as the algae problem gets worse.

″It’s like swimming in mash,″ said Alberta De Lorenzi, a Milanese who took vacation near the resort of Rimini. ″My children swim in the hotel pool. The algae make tough going on paddle-boats.″

Authorities say the decaying algae won’t make you ill, but they won’t make you anxious for a dip in the brown and gray waters.

Algae thrive on raw sewage, poured into the sea without purification, and on chemical pollutants, including industrial waste and phosphates from detergents.

The multiplying algae use oxygen, robbing fish of the vital gas.

Foul odors from the dying sea life makes spending time at the beach even less inviting.

The problem of putrifying fish was especially bad off the coast at Chioggia and Ravenna, a big tourist draw with its magnificent, well-preserved mosaics.

Other stricken areas include Venice, with its lagoon in the north, and Pesaro, a music festival town in the Marche region and a favorite vacation haunt for West Germans.

The Po, Italy’s longest river, is estimated to carry more than 4,000 metric tons a year of phosphates into the Adriatic.

Environment Minister Giorgio Ruffolo said a bill would be presented in Parliament that would set the volume of phosphates in cleaning products at 1 percent instead of the current 2.5 percent.

Mayors of Adriatic sea resorts urged the government to enforce laws that prohibit industry and farms to dump pollutants untreated into the sea.

They also are demanding a state of emergency and special funds for boats and mechanical equipment to clear the waters of decaying algae, similar to action taken in Venice.

Last month, the national government set aside 3 billion lire ($2.2 million) to help Venice fight its algae problem.

″We risk ruining the tourist season and producing thousands of unemployed,″ Nando Fabbri, the mayor of Bellaria, told Turin’s daily La Stampa.

Bruno Casadei, professor of ecology problems at the University of Urbino, not far from Pesaro, predicted the situation will worsen.

″Slow-moving currents and shallow depth will turn the Adriatic into a permanent sludge,″ he said, explaining that those factors make it difficult for the sea to flush itself clean of the pollutants.

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