In the latest issue of l’environnement, the FOEN magazine, the pressing issue of industrial wastewater pollution has taken center stage. Swiss industrial firms are now facing a critical challenge in maintaining the cleanliness of their wastewater to prevent further contamination of lakes and waterways. However, the complexity lies in identifying the specific substances within these wastewater streams and determining the most effective treatment methods.
The notorious 1986 Schweizerhalle incident serves as a grim reminder of the consequences of industrial accidents. A massive fire at Sandoz pharmaceutical group’s warehouses in Basel led to the release of toxic herbicides, insecticides, and mercury compounds into the Rhine River. This disaster left a lasting impact on aquatic life, taking years to recover.
Switzerland responded by enacting the Major Accidents Ordinance in 1991, requiring companies to establish containment basins for firefighting water. Subsequent federal legislation, including the 1991 Federal Water Protection Act and the associated 1998 ordinance, set limits on pollutants in wastewater from various industrial sectors. These measures have contributed to a significant reduction in industrial pollution of Swiss lakes and waterways, although industrial activities still account for 20% of detected micro-pollutants in water.
The challenge now is that companies, particularly in sectors like pharmaceuticals and galvanization, struggle to identify the specific pollutants in their wastewater, hindering precise treatment required by water protection laws. Collaboration among industry, associations, scientists, and authorities is essential to finding advanced treatment solutions tailored to each sector.