Switzerland faces a significant challenge with approximately 38,000 contaminated sites, including landfills, industrial areas, and accident sites. Over 1,700 of these sites have been remediated so far, but the goal of completing all necessary cleanups by 2040 is unlikely to be achieved.
Contaminants from these sites can seep into groundwater and surface water, with 60% of the affected sites located in water protection areas. Additionally, pollutants can penetrate the soil, especially in shooting ranges with heavy metals. Emissions from municipal waste landfills also contribute to air pollution.
Switzerland has diverse contaminated sites, including industrial areas, landfills, shooting ranges, and accident sites. Evaluations reveal that approximately 55% of the sites pose no environmental risks, while 26% do not require ongoing monitoring or remediation. Around 11% of the sites still need assessment, and an estimated 4,000 sites require remediation to protect human health and the environment.
So far, 1,700 of these priority sites have been remediated, with progress made at various locations. However, contaminated sites pose risks to public health and result in high remediation costs and economic losses.
The Swiss government aims to prevent the transfer of hazardous legacy sites to future generations through comprehensive measures outlined in the Swiss Environmental Protection Act and the Contaminated Sites Ordinance. Efforts are underway to expedite the process and ensure the sustainable elimination of risks posed by legacy sites. However, the government is likely to miss its target of completing investigations by 2028 and necessary cleanups by 2040.
The cost of addressing all contaminated sites is estimated to reach around 5 billion CHF. The government is focusing on waste management regulations to prevent the creation of new contaminated sites and promote waste treatment and recycling.