As tickets go on sale for the 2012 Olympics held in London, England in March 2011, few attendees will recognize and none will be warned about the potential dangers of the site. The site of the games was, for 150 years prior to being purchased by the Olympic Delivery Authority, a mostly unregulated toxic dumping ground for the multiple industrial factories and chemical companies situated there. The land was purchased from The Banner Chemicals Company in 2006 for almost $20 million before a comprehensive study was conducted on the potentially contaminated land. While excavating the site in 2008, government authorities bulldozed a chemical storage bunker and released vinyl chloride into the ground directly under what would become the main stadium. Potentially, 7000 metric tons of radioactive waste including thorium, polonium, uranium, and radium had seeped through the surface soil over the years, in some places contaminating the land down to the bedrock (40 meters below the surface). At this depth, the contaminating waste elements can connect to the groundwater aquifer and the Lea River which sits adjacent to the Olympic site. Though upwards of $14 million has been spent thus far towards the decontamination, dilution, and removal of the radioactive waste found near the surface, the waste at further depths was simply covered with an orange warning tarp, buried beneath layers of topsoil, and construction commenced.The most toxic waste that was dug out of the ground for removal was mixed with waste lower in toxicity in order to dilute the average amount of radioactivity and moved to a newly constructed radioactive waste dump on the grounds only 400 meters from the Olympic Stadium.
Originally, the Olympic Delivery Authority estimated the cleanup at the Olympic Stadium site was to be completed by 2008. However, the remediation of the contaminants was ongoing as of 2010 and was cited as one of the reasons for the resignation of, then-Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Jack Lemley. Olympic authorities plan to continue the clean-up effort after the close of the games and city officials have zoned the area to construct new residential housing on the land after remediation completes.
“A Little Radiation with the Olympics”. Nukewatch Quarterly, Winter 2010-11. Pg. 3. www.nukewatchinfo.org/Quarterly/winter201011/page3redone.pdf
Barley, S. 11/13/2010 “Olympic toxic waste cleared at 12.7m cost: Industrial solvents mixed with groundwater on site cleaning work will go on long after games are over”. The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/nov/12/toxic-waste-clean-up-olymp
Student Researcher: Joel Evans-Fudem
Faculator Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Sonoma State University