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Algae Slicks Scare Off Tourists, Kill Fish

August 20, 1988

MILAN, Italy (AP) _ Smelly, slimy slicks of algae along Italy’s northern Adriatic coast are scaring away tourists, killing fish and sparking cries for an end to the dumping of 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. The algae problem is only getting 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 bathers ill.

Algae thrive on raw sewage and certain chemical pollutants, including phosphates from detergents. Both are being dumped into the sea off the northeastern coast of Italy. The Po River is estimated to carry more than 4,000 tons of phosphates into the Adriatic every year.

The multiplying algae consume the sea’s oxygen, which in turn kills the fish. The foul odor from the decaying fish makes the beach even less inviting.

This problem 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 and Pesaro, a music festival town in the Marche region and a favorite vacation haunt for West Germans.

Some action is being taken.

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 resort towns urged the government to enforce laws that prohibit industry and farms from dumping untreated pollutants into the sea.

They also are demanding a state of emergency and more money to clear the waters of decaying algae. Last month, the national government set aside the equivalent of $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. Those factors make it difficult for the sea to flush itself clean of the pollutants, he said.

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