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Aerial view of the earth's masses: several million cubic meters in motion



In Denmark, which is largely rural, Randers is considered a working-class and industrial town - thanks to the food industry and the hand dryer manufacturer Dan Dryer.

By Danish standards, the environmental catastrophe that continues to spread in the south of the city is nothing short of dramatic.

Little by little, huge masses of contaminated earth are sliding towards the river Alling Å - and thus, in the future, over the Grund Fjord towards the Baltic Sea.

The nearby village of Ølst is even in danger of being swallowed up by the contaminated sites.

The landslides, which, according to geologists, began in 2021 at the latest and have become increasingly dangerous for people in recent weeks, originate from the site of the waste company Nordic Waste.

In a former clay pit dozens of meters deep, the company stored contaminated waste for years, including soil contaminated with spilled gasoline - or with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from tar residues.

However, heavy metals can also be found in the remains, which are at least largely “slightly contaminated”.

According to experts, a total of several million cubic meters of earth could now move.

The authorities are trying to contain the damage with excavators, trucks and other equipment.

They have already had some of the earth, which was piled up dozens of meters high, taken to other places - including Silkeborg.

In addition to the damage to the environment, a completely different problem is currently causing political turmoil in Denmark.

Namely the damage to land that the environmental catastrophe could leave behind in the country's still comparatively homogeneous society.

Because behind Nordic Waste is one of the richest Danes, billionaire Torben Østergaard-Nielsen.

According to many politicians in the country, he wants to use a legal trick to avoid responsibility - by having the company declare bankruptcy and reject any further obligation to be liable for the damage.

Unfortunately, unfortunately, they were unable to complete the task, the Ritzau news agency quoted the Nordic Waste company as saying.

Does the billionaire company want to buy its freedom?

Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt from the Moderates was particularly outraged by this, although he made it a point to speak out as a member of parliament and not as a minister.

»It's one thing if the company goes bankrupt.

But that is a personal declaration of bankruptcy and a personal moral declaration of bankruptcy for the owner,” Engel-Schmidt told Danmarks Radio.

It's about the "sixth richest man in Denmark, who is now leaving educators, primary school teachers and ordinary business owners with a bill worth billions."

Østergaard-Nielsen is considered a secretive entrepreneur from the island of Funen who has a penchant for fast and expensive cars.

He grew up selling fuel for ships and created a corporation with thousands of employees.

According to estimates, Østergaard-Nielsen has a personal fortune of more than five billion euros.

According to Danmarks Radio, the municipality of Randers is now working on a complaint against Nordic Waste.

Østergaard-Nielsen, says Engel-Schmidt, is worth billions and has "more Lamborghinis in the garage than other people will see in their lives."

However, the entrepreneur avoids using the wealth to clean up the land from which he made money.

The politician concluded with the words: "I would be ashamed to show my face on the street."

Environment Minister Magnus Heunicke also demanded of the Social Democrats that Nordic Waste was the culprit and therefore had to clean up and pay for it.

He spoke of a lack of social responsibility.

But even he could not guarantee that the Danish taxpayer would ultimately have to pay for the pollution.

Denmark's Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to Alling Å on Monday that she felt provoked that the company was "not making any contribution to help."

She had “nothing good” to say about the entrepreneur who was trying to shirk responsibility.

The anger of politicians is probably also related to how the parent company of Nordic Waste, the United Shipping & Trading Company (USTC), run by Østergaard-Nielsen and his family, apparently tried to buy its freedom on Friday.

Instead of simply putting more money into Nordic waste, USTC announced the establishment of a climate fund.

The fund, with a size equivalent to around 13 million euros, is intended, among other things, to help affected residents in the area.

Even if the pot were to be increased to a good 66 million euros over the next five years as planned, this would be far from covering the expected costs.

According to estimates by the engineering firm Cowi, the clean-up work and securing the waterway could take several years and cost a three-digit million euro amount.

The fact that Nordic Waste went bankrupt was "the result of an unusually tragic situation" that we regret, USTC said.

Heavy rains are said to be responsible for the landslides and the natural disaster.

»The fact that it now ends with Nordic Waste filing for bankruptcy is a very unpleasant but unfortunately unavoidable decision that we all wished we could have avoided.

But there is no other way out," said Torben Østergaard-Nielsen, according to a statement.

His daughter and co-owner, Nina Østergaard Borris, is quoted as saying: "Even in retrospect, we cannot see how we could have prevented or foreseen this natural disaster." It's about protecting the parent company, the company says. Under corporate law, liability is limited.

In the town of Ølst affected by the landslides, the current priority is to prevent further damage.

Further rain and thaw threaten to worsen the situation in the coming days.