Saturday, November 27

Le Figaro: Buried at a depth of 500 metres… Toxic waste threatens Europe’s groundwater

All experts agree that the countdown to water pollution has begun and that it is 2027, by which time it will be too late.

The French newspaper “Le Figaro” said that the “Whitlesam” site in France – which has an area of ​​200 square kilometers – buried 40,000 tons of arsenic, asbestos and other pollutants at a depth of 500 meters underground, threatening the largest groundwater level in Europe. When the process of securing it was about to begin, the justice system stopped working; This constitutes a great embarrassment for the government.

And the newspaper recovered – in a report By Angélique Negroni – Some events in the past in the Ho-Rhin area of ​​Whittelsam, whose church tower has been tilted. It was noticed that the ground was lowered little by little, which led to the inclination of some houses and the slope of the city of Sernai before it became the village of Bulweiler within a basin.

During conversations with the residents of this area near Mulhouse, the endless disturbances that they are accustomed to over the years and have become closer to stories are mentioned, but what is happening on the surface there in 12 municipalities – as the writer says – is a result of what happened Underground since 1910.

500 meters underground

Since that year, miners have been tirelessly exploiting deposits of potassium, and the Alsatian potassium mines have begun to provide this precious mineral used in fertilizer to support an entire region, and a network of arcades has been dug in an entire city underground, sometimes reaching a depth of more than a thousand meters. It is now deteriorating relentlessly after it was abandoned in 2002 following a horrific fire.

To explain what is happening, people in this area repeat that “nature does not accept a vacuum,” noting that these corridors are collapsing and filling up, and thus everything on the surface seemed to move to fill the void resulting from the exploitation of the mine, “which led to the fall of our churches,” as the writer explains.

Although 22 wells from this mine were backfilled, two of them remained open in Whittelsam, in favor of a dangerous project that the residents of the area had refused for 22 years, and now – despite the resistance and strong opposition of the population and elected officials – 42,000 tons of waste have been stored. In the mine, at a depth of 500 meters underground, 19,000 tons of them are classified as “0”, meaning they are dangerous, such as asbestos, arsenic, laboratory and electronic waste, as well as the waste resulting from the purification of the fumes of burning household waste, which means that there are thousands of packages stored in different blocks, distributed On 25 hectares, these wells have been open since 1999, becoming the StocaMine storage project.

This is the option that has been taken to dispose of hazardous waste, and this site has been permanently buried since 2017, by a decision of the governorate, and therefore 42 thousand tons of waste will remain buried forever in Whittelsam, but above these high-risk packages there is an underground water level which is the largest In Europe, and extends between Germany and France, and therefore there is a real risk of pollution to this huge reserve of water, even if it is separated by a thick geological layer – several hundred meters – from the waste.

Faced with this dilemma, everyone agrees that there is an urgent need to act to protect 35 billion cubic meters of water, but they differ on what to do. Major protection works must be carried out without delay to shelter the groundwater level. In any case, all experts agree that the countdown to water pollution has begun and that the date is 2027, after which it will be too late.

And while the work to protect the groundwater level was about to start – as the writer says – everything stopped suddenly by a decision of the Nancy Court of Appeal, which the opponents of the project submitted to it, and the governorate’s decree – issued on March 23, 2017, to make the landfill final – stopped all expectations. After that, the crews ready to work immediately filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

embarrassment for the state

Immediately, the Wettelsam Potassium Mining Company – 100% state-owned and responsible for Stockamine – said that the (Party) strike was harsh, because after years of stagnation, everything was ready to do the hard work of preventing water from seeping into the waste, It also prevents the polluted mixture from rising to the groundwater level.

The writer explained that the judges’ decision was very embarrassing for the state because it gives some hope to the project’s critics who seize the opportunity to make their voices heard again. Jan Fleury, an early opponent of the landfill project, says the dangers emerged as soon as “stockmaine” began to take shape, a view shared by Jean-Pierre Hecht, who also transported the waste.

“We were mobilizing the blocks to make a profit,” says Jean-Pierre Hecht, which is evidence that the controls were not enough as products that should not have been accepted there caught fire, and after this hardly avoided disaster, the closure of the mine that was scheduled in the year was expedited 2004, a few years later as a precautionary measure, 2,379 tons of waste containing mercury were removed.

But for the former miner, “today we have a bomb under our feet with canisters whose contents we do not always know and substances that can produce gas,” as for Jan Flory, it was all a lie “The authorities initially talked about the possibility of removing waste from this place at any time. In fact, they knew from the start that the burial would be final.”

For Rafael Schellenberger, who prepared a report on Stockamin in 2018, this fire was devastating, “it caused great mistrust among the population, and to restore this broken trust, elected local officials must be able to control the site,” according to him.

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