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Seine River water quality ‘alarming’ before Paris Olympics, NGO warns

A non-profit organization focused on waterway conservation has raised concerns about contamination of the Seine River in Paris ahead of open water swimming events taking place there during the Olympic and Paralympic Games starting in July.

The Surfrider Foundation indicated Monday that tests carried out on a bridge, the Pont Alexandre III, between September and March, regularly revealed levels of E. coli and higher enterococci, and sometimes well above the recommended threshold, which may be an indication of fecal contamination. matter.

The bridge is the intended finish line for the 10 kilometer marathon swim and the aquatic portion of the Olympic and Paralympic triathlons.

But Île-de-France officials rejected the Surfrider tests Monday, saying the water would be swimmable for the Summer Games after key parts of a $1.5 billion plan to clean up the river were deployed in April and May. And the city’s deputy mayor in charge of sports and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Pierre Rabadan, said in an interview in Paris on Tuesday that the results ignore a steady improvement in water quality in recent years. “I didn’t learn anything from the surveys they gave me,” he said.

The Seine, which winds through Paris, is not historically considered a suitable place for swimming. Access to water has been prohibited for a century due to health problems, particularly linked to wastewater.

But cleaning it up was a key commitment made by the Parisian authorities as part of their bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games.

In addition to certain sporting events, the river will be the centerpiece of the opening ceremonies. Athletes will sail the Seine on cruise boats with spectators lining the banks, instead of the traditional land parade.

In an open letter, Surfrider said it was increasingly concerned about the risks to Olympic athletes if the water remained contaminated by July, calling its test results “alarming.”

The cleanup plan suffered other setbacks. In August, the Open Water Swimming World Cup, scheduled to take place in the Seine River in Paris, was canceled due to poor water quality following above-average rainfall. Two of the four days of Olympic test events were canceled that month for the same reason.

But in a press release published on Monday, the Ile-de-France prefecture said that the main structural works of its clean-up plan had not yet been put in place, notably the new Austerlitz rainwater storage basin. .

She adds that the disinfection units at the wastewater treatment plants that would be activated for the Games did not operate during the Surfrider testing period; that water quality had been degraded by heavy winter rains, which would not be a factor during the Summer Games; and that boats on the Seine, some which discharge their wastewater into the river, would either be connected to the city’s sewerage network by the summer, or relocated for the Olympics.

The water of the Seine will be “bathable” in time for summer events.

“It is well known that the (winter) period, which is a period with a lot of rain, is not suitable for swimming,” Rabadan said.

He said the city’s own measurements show water quality was better in recent months than in previous winters, suggesting the cleanup efforts are paying off. “There is really a continuous improvement in the quality of the Seine,” he believes.

Rabadan added that there is no alternative site for the Olympic and Paralympic swimming events scheduled to take place in the Seine, but that organizers could postpone some competitions for several days if the water quality is insufficient.

Plans to clean up the river have been underway since 2016 and authorities aim to open more than 20 swimming sites to the public after the Olympics, which Rabadan says will “reconnect residents and tourists a little more with their river urban” and “will provide refreshments”. opportunities during summer periods, which become increasingly hot.

Rick Noack in Paris contributed to this report.

News Source :
Gn world

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