Where to put excavation material?

Mon, 20. Sep. 2021
80 per cent of the excavation material comes from construction sites in the Saanenland. Photograph: Blanca Burri

When building, construction companies excavate material, and there is a lot of construction happening in the Saanenland. This material has to go somewhere. Ecologically and economically, a landfill in close proximity makes the most sense. Still, no one wants to be exposed to the noise and dust emissions that such a facility may produce. This harbours the potential for conflict, but solutions are urgently needed.

The issue is topical again because residents of Badweidli, which is close to the approved Trom landfill, recently placed their concerns and worries via the Anzeiger von Saanen. The municipality and one of the landowners commented on this. The landfill has cut all the red tape, the administrative court rejected the residents’ objections, and so the project continues. Except for the affected residents, this is good news.

The problem is not new and often the outcome is different. Planned landfills can be postponed for years or entirely rejected due to complaints. As a result, the region lacks landfills, so that material from the Saanenland is dumped in Grandvillard and Zweisimmen. Evidently, this makes no economic or ecological sense. But who is prepared to put up with the noise and dust emissions caused by the transport of excavation material?

The public authorities and landfill operators, on the other hand, appeal to homeowners and residents who oppose a planned landfill. After all, they also produced traffic, emissions and excavation material with their own houses. In the end, it is a balancing act between the common good and particular interests – and, of course, feasibility. The requirements for landfill sites are high, which makes them difficult to find.

Landfill Ey-Grubenwald
The landfill Ey-Grubenwald is a good example of how a landfill site works and what the impacts are on residents. It is located between Zweisimmen and Boltigen on the right-hand side, just before the Schlössli restaurant. It is located in the municipality of Zweisimmen and is operated by Banholzer Bau AG.

This landfill was opened in 2015 after a planning and approval period of many years. It is a type A dump for uncontaminated excavation material. It covers an area of 2.5ha and can take 400,000m3 of material. The duration of the landfill was planned for 20 years, i.e. until 2035.

After only six years, it is already 80 per cent full. The owner of Banholzer Bau AG, Bruno Kohler, expects it to be completed in two years. After that, the landfill emergency in the region will be further exacerbated, also for the Saanenland.

“80 per cent of the material comes from the Saanenland,” Kohler specifies. Although the Trom landfill in Gstaad should go into operation next autumn, with a landfill volume of 70’000m3, it will soon be full. If things continue at the same pace as in Zweisimmen, it will only last one and a half years.

Banholzer Bau AG is also trying to counteract the landfill emergency. It is looking into expanding the landfill Ey-Grubenwald. In Rougemont and Theilegg in Saanen, there are also landfill projects, some of which have been blocked for years. Another one is open for public consultation in Gsteig.

Noise and dust emissions
As with many new landfills, there was opposition in Zweisimmen. Noise and dust emissions were the main argument of the residents. With 4000 lorries per year and an average of 20 deliveries per day, the fears are understandable. The landfill operators and the municipality sought dialogue with the neighbours, who are organised in a commission. They understood the landfill emergency.

“Basically, of course, no one wants to have a landfill on their doorstep. That is contradictory because every construction project produces excavation material, including every residential building,” Kohler reflects. At a time when the CO2 law is being discussed on a national level, he finds it incomprehensible that landfills are so rare in the region. The further away a landfill is from the excavation site, the more people are burdened with noise emissions and additional traffic.

The lorries from Gstaad, for example, pass through four villages before they reach the Ey-Grubenwald landfill. Kohler also brings landscape protection into play. He finds it incomprehensible that landscape protection often counts more than environmental considerations or agricultural benefits. “After we complete a landfill, farmers can work the terrain more efficiently and safely because it is more level. We fill in the steep terrain and cover it with a topsoil layer of 60 cm. For most farmers in a mountain area, this is a dream.”

Words and actions
Grubenwald residents have a direct view of the landfill. Heinz Rufener is their representative and sits on the operating committee. He gives Banzholzer Bau AG an excellent report: “Except for dust pollution during scorching summer days, the residents have never complained. The operating company is doing an exemplary job.”

It is crucial to Kohler that he listens to the residents’ concerns, and Banholzer Bau AG takes measures, such as watering the transport routes with a spray truck. Kohler adds another example: “When we opened the site six years ago, the delivery times were sometimes not adhered to.” Therefore, he says, a barrier was installed that remains closed from noon to 1pm and from 5.30pm to 7am. Additionally, a wheel washing system ensures that the trucks do not transport dirt onto the road.

Andreas Grünig, managing director of the Berg- und Planungsregionen Kandertal und Obersimmental-Saanenland, is impressed by the cooperation with the neighbours. In the responsible landfill commission, representatives of the municipality, neighbouring residents, the operator and the region regularly discuss pending issues. “The concerns of the critical residents have an important status,” he adds. The goals are to ensure an efficient, regulated and controlled operation, minimise emissions and discuss procedures and measures.

The commission meets twice a year and discusses more urgent matters via telephone conferences. For example, if some work can only be done outside of operating hours because of the weather.

The hauliers pay CHF 16 per cubic metre. Financially, various partners benefit from a landfill. The landowner usually receives about CHF 3 per cubic metre. In addition, the municipality and the operator also earn money from a landfill. Farmers receive compensation for loss of income during the time they cannot use the land.

The excavation material delivered is incorporated every evening and checked for foreign bodies. If a company delivers unauthorised material, video surveillance helps to identify the culprit, who has to return and take back the material. The video also serves as evidence for any other incidents on the landfill site.

A lesson to learn?
There is no doubt that planning and running a landfill near residential buildings requires some compromises and the goodwill of homeowners and tenants. This is so important in a region like ours because practically every location will be nearby residential buildings. So, the question that remains is, in how far should or can we expect people to accept a landfill in their neighbourhood?





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