Members of the environmental organisation, Greenpeace, have occupied a waste dump in canton Jura to protest the failure of Basel companies to clean up the site. Around 100 demonstrators used vehicles to block the entrances of the Bonfol dump.
Basel's industries used the dump to dispose of more than 100,000 tonnes of toxic waste between 1961 and 1976. The environmental activists are demanding that Basel-based chemical and pharmaceutical companies take urgent action to clean up the site.
"The chemical industry's toxic legacy should not become the burden of future generations. It's time for those responsible to accept their responsibility for this chemical time bomb and clean it up immediately," said Stefan Weber, who handles toxic waste issues for Greenpeace.
The town of Bonfol, the canton of Jura and federal environmental authorities have all called for a SFr200 million clean up of the site, which the canton has declared polluted.
However chemical companies have reportedly refused to pay for such an operation, arguing that their waste disposal was entirely legal and that the site was safe. Subsequent changes in the law now bar dumping chemical waste there.
"We have to see how to solve this and not leave it to future generations, but this will take some study and time to see what is possible," said Rodolfo Ciucci, a spokesman for Basel's chemical companies. He said that they were discussing the matter with government authorities and environmentalists, and that they would ensure the site did not pose a public health danger.
Ciucci stressed that only after studies of the situation have been undertaken and the waste dump was proven to be a safety hazard, would they take responsibility and start doing whatever was needed.
swissinfo with agencies