Four centuries’ worth of pollution cleared from Beckholmen

Becksjuderi in the 17th century

Producing tar didn’t produce a pleasant smell, which was why it was usually done away from urban areas. In the 17th century, Beckholmen became a popular area for it. Even as production ceased and shipbuilding took over, tar was still handled on the island. In the middle of the 19th century, Nils Ericson constructed two ship docks at Beckholmen. He also built a new lock in the city around the same time. In 1918, the Navy took over the commercial operations and Beckholmen became a part of the naval shipyard. It had lived at Skeppsholmen, Kastellholmen and Djurgården for centuries prior. Another dock – Gustav V’s dock – was completed in 1925. The dock accommodated the Navy’s armoured ships, which soon grew both in size and number.

One of Sweden’s biggest clean-up projects

In 1969, the naval base moved to Muskö and in 1986, the Royal Djurgården Administration took charge of Beckholmen. However, by that point 400 years of environmental damage had taken its toll: the island’s soil was thought to contain 435 tonnes of lead, 4.5 tonnes of arsenic and nearly 2.5 tonnes of mercury. These figures didn’t exactly bode well for a good working environment or opening up the area to the public. The solution ended up being one of Sweden’s biggest ever clean-up projects: the Beckholmen remediation.

A thriving shipyard on non-toxic land

Firstly, between 2011 and 2012, the administration removed and replaced almost all of the contaminated soil – they excavated over 60,000m3. Secondly, they removed approximately 100,000 tonnes of pulp containing heavy metals and tar and replaced it with new, clean soil. Thirdly, they demolished several houses and moved others elsewhere. Finally, they kept some trees and felled others; cars and barges travelled by shuttle service. The total cost came to almost 200 million SEK.

Today, the island’s shipbuilding business is booming; at both Stockholm Repairyard and the non-profit organisations who revamp sailing ships and steamboats. There are new piers off parts of the quays, and on the island’s crest you can find houses nestled in greenery, with unbeatable views of Stockholm’s inlet. A detailed planning process is currently underway to protect Beckholmen going into the future, and environmental issues are an important part of it. The island is an important place for both the cityscape and shipping.

Grävskopa vid vatten. Saneringsarbete.
Work on the remediation of Beckholmen
Fartygsdocka vid Beckholmen.
Remediation of the ship dock at Beckholmen

The Beckholmen clean-up has created safe and inclusive green areas for all. It protects and preserves important nature and cultural values (11.7,4)

The Beckholmen clean-up prevents pollution of the sea from the landbased industry (14.1)