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Risk communication plays a key role in crisis management; as such, this paper aims to investigate the issue in the context of public debate linked to a specific case study. The case considered here is that of overflows at the outflow the sewage treatment plant of the city of Lignano and the discovery of contaminated shellfish in the lagoons of Grado and Marano between 1 February 2017 and 30 June 2019. The survey is structured through a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the media coverage content with a focus on the actual institutional control and monitoring activity in the affected region. Three of the main figures involved in the case were also interviewed in support of this investigation. The results confirm greater interest on the part of mass media in events capable of generating controversy with multiple exchanges between the parties involved.Within the media arena, there is a proactive behaviour by the local political sources that have, indeed, guided the debate with respect to the institutions, and the competent authorities that have taken a passive stance. This choice did not favour the formation of a suitable risk perception on the part of citizens, because, since they were not exhaustive in responding to the concerns expressed by the population, inevitably the institutions have created an environment in which the trust placed in them by the people may be undermined. An example is given by the focus on the control and monitoring activities of ARPA [regional environmental regulatory agency] that shows a considerable presence in the field with over five thousand samples aimed at protecting the environment and public health; however, this Agency was widely attacked in the media as these activities were not made clear in the subsequent debate. It is therefore essential to carry out interventions in which the processes of listening to and the participation of citizens play a central role. Paying attention to and understanding the public’s concerns about the dangers to health and the environment are essential aspects of risk communication in which public bodies and institutions in Italy should invest more, thus also optimising the aspects of risk management related to communication itself and, at the same time, guaranteeing citizens the right to information. Some statements made during the interviews, as well as certain activities undertaken by the competent authorities, therefore seem to be a good omen for the future insofar as greater investment in institutional communication will surely allow for an improvement both in the relationship of trust with the population and risk management. The improvement in the latter will also improve all the economic aspects related to the acceptability of the risks themselves that, at this point in history, represent the basis for a country’s growth.
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