Swiss polluted sites Zug-sized, says report

A new survey has found 38,000 sites in Switzerland that are polluted, according to the federal environment office.

Swiss polluted sites Zug-sized, says report
Environment office map shows total size of polluted sites (area in orange)

If that sounds like a lot, officials who released the numbers in a report on Thursday say it’s actually less than the 50,000 sites previously estimated.

The surface area of the contaminated sites is close to 225 square kilometres, or about the size of the canton of Zug.

And 10 percent of the contaminated sites are in areas used by the Swiss Army for target practice.

The findings are based on data gathered and analyzed from federal and cantonal surveys for the first time.

The survey shows that half of the polluted sites are on industrial land and 40 percent from waste discharges in addition to the 10 percent attributable to shooting ranges.

Around one percent of polluted sites are the result of accidents, the report says.

Close to 60 percent of polluted sites in Switzerland are close to usable underground water sources, according to the report.

On the plus side, the government says that two-thirds of polluted sites do not require any treatment, with around half of them posing no environmental problems.

But for 10,000 sites, investigations into their impact have yet to be done.

Studies done so far have put five percent of the sites under surveillance, while cleanup operations have been undertaken in about three percent of cases.

By the time more studies are completed over the next few years, the environment office expects cleanups will be needed at 3,000 sites on top of the 700 that have already received remediation work.

The current action to address polluted sites was kick-started by regulations dating back to the late 1990s.

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Campaign draws attention to filthy air in Swiss cities

The air quality in many Swiss cities is very poor and levels of a greenhouse gas exceed European emissions standards, according to an environmental organization.

Campaign draws attention to filthy air in Swiss cities
Photo: VCS

VCS has installed a display screen in the centre of the capital, Bern, to draw attention to the problem of high levels of nitrogen oxide in the air caused by heavy traffic, according to a news release.

The display turns red as soon as the level of the gas NOx in the air passes the year average of 30 micrograms per cubic meter. A green light indicates an emissions reading below the European limit.

The display screen has been installed outside Bern railway station in an area of dense traffic.

The actual emissions are measured 200 meters away at the Bollwerk measuring station operated by the Federal Office for the Environment.

According to the VCS, 22,000 people work in this “red district” of Bern. A further 200,000 people using the railway station are exposed to dangerous levels of the greenhouse gas every day.

VCS said that the situation in Bern was not unique in Switzerland and other cities also regularly measure unacceptably high emissions levels.

The poor air quality in many places has serious consequences for people’s health and the environment, it said.