During the communist times, Porto Romano served as a base for the construction of leather tanning and pesticides factories for the rest of Albania. After the fall of communism, the state shut down the factories but during the great social upheaval nothing was done to decontaminate the region from the dangerous chemicals needed in the mainly Russian and Chinese technologies used during the manufacturing processes. A report published in 2004 by the Albanian Ministry of Environment along with the World Bank states the levels of HCH and Lindane present on the sites of the former factories as being hundreds of times over the limits permitted in EU nations.
Families have moved down from the mountainous northern region to try to gain work in the port city of Durres. Settlers in Porto Romano have lived around the abandoned factory buildings for the past 8 years, despite regular attempts by NGOs and the Albanian government to move them on. The main problem with their living quarters are that they are built with contaminated materials scavenged from the derelict factory buildings. The UN Environment Programme designated this site an environmental disaster area which posed, “grave risks to human health, groundwater and the marine habitat” in a survey conducted in 2000. Until 1992, the Porto Romano factory made use of a range of hazardous chemicals, including chromium-VI, which is used in leather tanning, and lindane, a pesticide many countries have banned. The last of the plants there was shut down permanently in 1998.