Environmental disaster leakage of contaminated soil on Danish coast

In Denmark, the credibility and capabilities of municipal environmental inspections are being questioned following a dike breach and landslide at a Danish deposit of contaminated soil. In the northeast of the Danish mainland, efforts have been made since the end of December to prevent an environmental disaster, as a mountain of millions of kilos of contaminated soil is spreading.

The soil pollution poses a danger to the drinking water supply and threatens to spread towards Kattegat via some rivers. The soil cleaner Nordic Waste is one of the largest specialized soil processors in the north of the country, with - in some places - a storage height of more than 70 meters. One report estimates that three million cubic meters of soil – weighing around 5 million tonnes – is moving downward at almost 10 meters per day

At ground cleaner Nordic Waste, soil from cleared mass graves of mink and fur animals from Denmark and Norway was stored, among other things, after the massive culls during the corona period. The company is owned by a wealthy Danish family, but filed for bankruptcy shortly after the dike breach. 

Now the costs of the clean-up threaten to fall on the shoulders of the citizens. With continued uncertainty over who will ultimately be responsible for costs and damage, the situation surrounding Nordic Waste remains a hot topic in Denmark. 

Denmark has reacted with shock at the scale of the problems surrounding Nordic Waste. It not only impacts the environment, but also questions the effectiveness of environmental protection and regulation in Denmark. As local authorities and environmental agencies work to contain the spills, calls for stricter regulations are growing. 

Political parties are considering removing the environmental inspections for such depots from the municipalities and scaling them up to provincial or national level. There is even talk of revoking previously granted municipal environmental approvals in response to the Nordic Waste scandal.

A TV2 report showed that the director of Nordic Waste has also resigned from the board of Sund & Bælt, the company behind the Great Belt Bridge. The billionaire is heavily criticized because he cannot be held sufficiently accountable due to the bankruptcy. In addition, there is a fuss about the fact that his own other companies are claiming many millions from the bankrupt Nordic Waste.

In the wake of this crisis, Denmark appears to be facing a turning point in its approach to environmental protection. The Nordic Waste scandal has not only exposed the vulnerabilities in the current system, but has also intensified the urgency to take environmental management to the next level.