When you get to Harboøre Tange you will see one large chemical plant which is home to the chemical company of Auriga which used to be called Cheminova. The plant was constructed at a remote location in Denmark in the 1950s. Back then it was considered a good location to build a chemical plant since there was nobody living next to it and the waste the plant produced could quietly be washed away into the North Sea next to the plant.
The plant dumped its waste at a location known as Høfde 42 or Groyne 42. The name is infamous in Denmark and if you tell people about it they will have heard about – though many may not be able to actually point the location out on a map since it isn’t one of the regular attractions most people go to. We are not most people so we decided to do the days sightseeing here.
The dump of chemicals at the location was actually legal. Cheminova had a permission to dig down its waste consisting of mercury and pesticides. Over a short period from 1957 to 1962 Cheminova dug down 1,500 tons of toxic waste on the beach. After 1962 the company didn’t dig down more chemicals but the Danish government used the location to get rid of chemicals they were collecting from across the country.
At the beginning of the 1970s it became clear the ocean didn’t hide all the evidence of this massive pollution. The sea outside this beach became severely polluted and it was decided something had to be done to clean up the area. In 1971 the first cleanup was started the polluted dirt was dug up and taken away to be treated. Unfortunately this wasn’t sufficient to clean up the beach. The area was still severely polluted.
In 1981 another cleanup effort was done. Several meters of dirt was dug up and taken away in the hope to clean the area once and for all. They might have thought it worked but it didn’t really work. In 2000 it was determined there was still toxic waste leaking into the sea from the beach.
This time around they decided not to clean the beach – instead a temporary sealing of the toxic area was undertaken. The toxic should be kept in check until at least 2021 – but hopefully it is still working since the guarantee period is about to expire.
In 2013 another check was done on the situation in the area. It turned out there is still significant pollution in the area. There is ongoing research on how to actually clean up the area but a massive cleanup effort is still not decided.
The area around groyne 42 is actually a pretty beach – but nobody goes here. The actually location of the waste is between groyne 42 and groyne 43. There are signs at the beach telling you not to linger at this area since there might still be some toxic (mainly pesticides) in the area which might be detrimental to your health. Swimming and fishing isn’t allowed at a section of beach between groyne 40 and groyne 45.
It was a fun little excursion to do – and if you are the kind of person who want a different experience like a trip to Chernobyl in Ukraine this is the closest thing we got in Denmark to Chernobyl so you might give it a go. You find the place along the road to Thyborøn – there is only this road – and you will know you are at the right place when you get to the light signal in front of the chemical plant. You just turn down a dirt road to the beach and go to the end to see the area.