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Jura demands immediate closure of Bonfol chemical dump

The authorities in in the Swiss canton of Jura are demanding the immediate closure of the Bonfol chemical dump. The president of the Jura cantonal government, Pierre Kohler, said that chemical substances had leaked from the dump into the water table.

The authorities in in the Swiss canton of Jura are demanding the immediate closure of the Bonfol chemical dump.

The president of the Jura cantonal government, Pierre Kohler, said the area was contaminated. He told a news conference that chemical substances had leaked from the dump and had seeped into the water table.

Bonfol was used chiefly by the Basel chemical industry in the 1960s and 1970s, and accumulated up to 114,000 tonnes of waste up to 1976. The site is owned by an association of Basel chemical firms.

The association insists that a SFr28 million cleanup operation in 1996 conformed with legal obligations.

The Jura government decided in 1998 to apply the "polluter pays" principle, set out in new federal legislation. It called on seven Basel companies, including Novartis, Ciba, Clariant, and Hoffmann-La-Roche, to meet the full estimated SFr200 million cost of closing and cleaning up the site,

Walter Wildi, a member of the research group which the local authorities set up to survey Bonfol, said that tests in recent weeks had shown a high level of pollution around the site. "The frontline of contamination is continuing to advance", he said.

Bonfol has stirred up controversy in neighbouring France. The site is only a few kilometres from the country's border with Switzerland.

Both the French authorities and the media have expressed concern that chemicals from the site could cause pollution on their side of the frontier. Bonfol was on the agenda of talks in Berne on Monday between France's environment minister, Dominique Voynet, and her Swiss counterpart, Moritz Leuenberger.

A spokesman for Switzerland's environment ministry said that France had been invited to send a representative to meetings of the liaison group which brings together the Jura authorities and the Basel chemical firms.


swissinfo with agencies

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