Toxic waste identified at 38.000 locations in Switzerland

Toxic waste identified at 38.000 locations in Switzerland

A new report by Blick has revealed that 38.000 places in Switzerland are contaminated with toxic chemicals and elements. Official estimates say that an area the size of Canton Zug is laced with toxic materials, with the Swiss government now estimating that it will take at least 17 years to clean up all the locations.

Area the size of Canton Zug contaminated

In previous decades, according to Blickentrepreneurs, Swiss businesses, energy providers, the government and regular people have dumped toxic waste into the natural environment. This detritus ranges from standard household items to toxic chemicals, explosives and even radioactive material.

According to official government estimates, there are around 38.000 contaminated sites across the country, making up an area as large as Canton Zug. Of these, authorities say that 4.000 are in need of remediation - meaning they pose a health risk to local residents and the environment.

Cleaning toxic waste dumps costs billions of Swiss francs

One of the most contaminated sites was in Kölliken, Canton Aargau - a site that became a toxic waste dump between 1978 and 1985. The toxic waste soon found its way into the groundwater, leading to fish kills. The site started to be cleared by the authorities in 2005, with excavators having to wear protective suits and oxygen tanks. The project is costing the canton over 900 million francs.

Another severe site in Switzerland is an arsenic deposit in Canton Basel-Land, which covers an estimated 30.000 square metres. What's more, officials say that 4.000 shooting ranges across the country will need to be cleaned, as they are deemed to be contaminated by toxic lead bullets.

Finally, the authorities in Mitholz in Bern will have to deal with another more volatile compound: they will have to clear the 3.500 tons of bombs and ammunition buried there by an explosion in 1947. Authorities in Canton Bern told Blick that clearing this site alone will take 25 years and cost 2,5 billion Swiss francs.

Swiss Federal Council expects the project to last until 2040

In all, the Federal Council told the newspaper that clearing all waste sites is a “generational project.” Authorities hope that all so-called “poison places” will be cleared up by 2040 at the earliest.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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