Toxic Waste

Recently I came across the Hazardous Waste Landfill at Kölliken, Switzerland. This toxic waste dump located in a residential area was operated between 1978 and 1985 and served as the dumping ground for the local chemical industry. It was operated until it was discovered that waste was contaminating the local water supply. Re-mediation efforts began in 1986 and are scheduled to be complete by 2015. Among other technological innovations,  the re-mediation effort has resulted in the construction over the site of the second-largest wide span hall in Europe with a negative internal air pressure to prevent further contamination of surrounding areas. It is interesting to note that the site operated as a dump for just 8 years, yet by the time it will have been re-mediated back to it’s natural state it will have taken almost 30 years.

In Australia this would be seen as a stuff-up of the most extreme kind and a source of shame and anguish – like the Wittenoom Asbestos mine in Western Australia. However in Switzerland there seems to be a form of perverse pleasure and almost a celebration of the technological achievements that have resulted (through necessity) from the re-mediation effort. At a recent open day, visitors even posed for photographs in a dummy chemical protection suite. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself, the photos are posted on the web.

I don’t know how to take this – it is both funny and sad at the same time. There is also a sense of delight that so many technological advances can come from such an environmental disaster. Let’s hope that this sort of stupid disaster and other debacles like Wittenoom and the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, never happen again.


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