GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Measurements taken recently by two groups confirm that the canal of the Rhone river in Visp, canton Valais, was chemically polluted by local employer Lonza, from 1930 to 1976. Researchers found the presence of more than 100 chemicals, with mercury heading the list, in the water.
The researchers were from WWF Switzerland environmental group working with MfE, a group of pro-environmental protection doctors. Lonza and the latter group have been at odds over how to interpret findings of chemicals in the canal.
RTS reports that authorities from the cantonal environmental office say they are not surprised, as previous studies have also shown mercury as the main pollutant, among others.
Lonza is a multinational firm today that refers to itself as a “life sciences company”, but it started out in 1897 in Gampel, Valais, near Visp, as an electricity company. By 1909 it was making chemical fertilizers and for the first three-quarters of the century it unloaded industrial chemical waste into the water near the main plant in Visp.