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Chemical industry dampens hopes for swift clean up of Jura waste dump

Hans-Ulrich Müller (left) and Kaspar Eigenmann from the steering committee explain the clean-up project for the Bonfol site.

(Keystone)

The chemical industry has promised to clean up a major toxic waste dump in canton Jura. But the companies concerned said it could take up to 15 years before the Bonfol site is clean.

The chemical companies in Basel reaffirmed on Tuesday that the industry was committed to a pledge made on Monday to clean up the site. But, their spokesman, Hans-Ulrich Müller, warned that it was uncertain whether a comprehensive clean-up operation was feasible.

Müller said the industry and the authorities in canton Jura would commission an expert report. He said a final decision on how to proceed could take more than two years. Müller also pointed out that one of the problems was that there was not enough capacity in Switzerland to incinerate the waste.

Following talks with the chemical companies on Monday, the Jura authorities announced the industry had agreed to eliminate possible environmental dangers. The industry had so far maintained that it was unnecessary to clean up the dump, and that it was technically not feasible either.

The Jura cantonal government and the federal environment agency have been demanding a clean-up for some time. Neighbouring France also expressed concern that toxic substances from the dump could spill into the underground water table.

Last Saturday, members of the environmental organisation, Greenpeace, occupied the waste site and a nearby factory to press for a swift solution. A spokesman said Greenpeace would not end its protest yet to keep the pressure up.

The site at the village of Bonfol was used mainly by chemical companies from Basel between 1960 and 1976. They stored more than 100,000 tonnes of waste, and it is estimated the clean-up operation could cost up to SFr200 million.

swissinfo with agencies

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