Rosignano Plant - "White Beaches"
Solvay Rosignano operates safely without impact on health or environment
We regularly update this webpage. Last update on 17.07.2019
Solvay has been producing soda ash, mainly used for the production of glass, and sodium bicarbonate, at its Italian site of Rosignano, alongside the Tuscany coast, for more than a century.
Some videos and articles claim that the “white beaches” and their clear blue water are due to contaminated waste water from the nearby factory.
Solvay wishes to make clear that the site is not polluting the beach, nor its waters. The plant does not discharge any free heavy metals from its production activities. The discharge contains powdery deposits of limestone - harmless, naturally-occurring materials. The authorities regularly test the water quality of the discharge and that of the bathing water. The results consistently show that the water is safe: its quality is in line with the rest of the Tuscany coast and there is no ban on bathing.
Why is the Rosignano beach so white and its water so blue?
The beach derives its color from harmless, powdery deposits of limestone, which flow into the water discharge of the site. The blue water is a natural phenomenon caused by the reflection of the sky against the white bottom of the sea.
What about the limestone discharges?
The plant uses limestone from nearby quarries as a raw material to manufacture soda ash. This limestone contains minute, naturally-occurring heavy metals in trace amounts which are “trapped” in the fine particles that the factory discharges.
In this so-called "solid" state, these heavy metals are inert and harmless to humans and to the environment. They cannot be absorbed by living organisms, including fish.
The site complies with all applicable regulations, enforced and publicly documented by government authorities who independently verify environmental sampling data.
Which authority checks what?
The Agenza Regionale Per La Protezione Ambientale Della Toscana (ARPAT) or Regional Environmental Agency for the Tuscany Region, enforces regulations. The ARPAT checks the effluents at least four times a year, including for heavy metals, and conducts complementary checks. Its latest report shows that the water quality at Rosignano is identical to that of the entire coast of Tuscany.
The municipal authority checks the water quality for bacteria to assess bathing conditions from April through September, and for chemical products throughout the year. Their analysis shows the water is safe.
The site itself monitors its discharged water every day. Every two weeks, it submits the average results of all its samples to the ARPAT.
Is the open channel to the sea allowed?
There is no ban on bathing, except for the stretch of 100 meters upstream and downstream of the discharge point. This distance is stipulated by Italian law. It applies for any type of industrial structure.
Solvay’s soda ash process, production and effluents management are fully aligned with the European Commission’s Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for the Manufacture of Large Volume Inorganic-Chemicals - Solids and Others industry. This document states the different methods recommended for the management of effluents in marine outfalls.
What does the plant produce?
The plant mainly produces soda ash and sodium bicarbonate. The plant was created in 1912, covers 200 ha and has roughly 450 employees.
How does the plant work?
Please see this infographic:
What is Soda Ash? What are its applications?
In 1863, Ernest Solvay discovered a new process for the manufacturing of sodium carbonate or soda ash -- a key ingredient to make glass -- using salt brine and limestone. Soda ash is also used to produce highly pure sodium bicarbonate, which has applications in many fields: food, feed, health care and in air pollution control. Please see the brochure on a thousand day-to-day uses of sodium bicarbonate.
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