On Ciro Fusco’s farm in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, police swooped down one recent day and planted a warning sign in his broccoli fields, prohibiting any one from harvesting or even setting foot on the plot. Dozens of other fields in the area were sequestered in the same way. Decades of toxic waste dumping by the Camorra crime syndicate that dominates the Naples area poisoned wells, authorities have found in recent months, tainting the water that irrigates crops with high levels of lead, arsenic and the industrial solvent tetrachloride.
The warning came too late: Fusco had already sold some of his broccoli at nearby markets.
The farmlands around Naples, authorities say, are contaminated from the Mafia’s multibillion-dollar racket in disposing toxic waste, mainly from industries in the wealthy north that ask no questions about where the garbage goes as long as it’s taken off their hands—for a fraction of the cost of legal disposal. The poisoning is triggering widespread fear and outrage in the Naples area, and tens of thousands of people marched through the city’s chaotic streets last month demanding to know whether they have been eating tainted vegetables for years.