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Environmental clean-up

No more toxic waste at Bonfol

The last remnants from one of Switzerland’s major toxic waste landfills – Bonfol in canton Jura – have left the site, local authorities and representatives of the Basel chemical industry said on Friday.

More than 200,000 tonnes of highly contaminated waste were extracted and removed to be incinerated since 2000.

The cantonal government ordered the clean-up after 114,000 tonnes of toxic chemical waste was dumped in a clay pit at the site, near the French border, randomly and without being inventoried between 1961 and 1976.

The last tonne of waste left the site on Monday, said bci Betriebs-AG, the Basel chemical industry consortium charged with cleaning it up. Local authorities hailed the news.

“Today, Bonfol is free from waste,” said David Eray, Jura’s environment minister. “A new chapter is starting, but work is not yet quite finished,” he added, referring to the monitoring and demolition expected to be carried out through 2017.

The 15-hectare area is to be reforested by 2019, Spearheading the project is the Escale Bonfol Association, which was created five years ago to serve as a liaison between the local community and the chemical industry. The work is being carried out in conjunction with the prominent Swiss architect Mario Botta.


Martin Forter, who has followed the work in Bonfol as an expert for the non-governmental organisation Greenpeace, said that he and the NGO were pleased that Bonfol had been cleaned up.

“Bonfol is however can only really be properly cleaned up when the sand areas at the base of the site are also cleaned up,” he told swissinfo.ch via email. “The chemical waste has strongly contaminated [these] sand areas…over the last years. These must be dug out as far as we can tell.”

There are still other chemical waste sites that need to be cleaned up, fully and not partially, he continued. This includes at a site in Muttenz, near Basel, which is a risk to local drinking water, he said.

Almost 38,000 polluted sites remain in Switzerland, including landfills, industrial areas and shooting ranges, according to Swiss public television RTS. For some of them, clean-up work is estimated to cost more than CHF100 million. 

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