Bathing in the Seine, a dream that is getting closer for the 2024 Paris Olympics

The authorities plan to open some twenty bathing areas in the Paris region in the following years (REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo) (SARAH MEYSSONNIER/)

The old “dream” of the Parisians of bathing in the Seine River seems closer due to the 2024 Paris Olympicsalthough some observers remain skeptical.

“500 days from the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we are one step away from achieving what will be one of your most beautiful legacies,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Monday.

In 1990, the then mayor of Paris, Jacques Chiracwho would become president five years later, promised Parisians that they would bathe in the Seine “in three years.”

Three decades later, the State, the city and other municipalities have injected almost 1,400 million euros (1,500 million dollars) so that this “dream”, in the words of the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgowill come true.

disputed between invalidate them and the Eiffel Tower, the open water swimming events and the triathlon should mark the return of the general public to the river, where bathing has been prohibited since 1923.

The authorities foresee the opening of some twenty bathing areas in the Paris region in the following years. In the capital, the installation of four is being studied.

The Sports Minister, Amélie Oudéa-Casteraindicated at the end of February that the number and location of these “stations” will be determined after the Games, “by the end of 2024”.

Target 75%

The main challenge ahead is the Treatment of waste water that mix with rainwater on their way to the Seine or its tributary, the River Marne, which is also part of the plan.

The Seine will host the opening of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games
The Seine will host the inauguration of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games (PARIS 2024/)

Preventing this cocktail from contaminating the river is one of the objectives of the storage tank built near the Austerliz station in Paris, said the municipal official for the Seine, Pierre Rabadan.

The prefecture of the Ile-de-France region, which together with the city of Paris coordinates the plan, hopes “suppress three quarters of pollution by 2024” related to bad attacks.

“If we reach this target of 75%, it should be possible to bathe in the Seine,” explains the prefecture. Sanitation works are multiplying in the region, along the Seine and Marne rivers.

Based on a 2006 European directive, the regulation requires the microbiological analysis of two fecal bacteria: the ‘Escherichia coli’ and intestinal enterococci.

“Last summer, the daily sample pool was satisfactory or excellent 7 out of 10 days. And this, before all the works in progress”, explains Rabadan.

The proportion rose to 92% between the end of July and August, the period during which the Olympic event will be held next year, added the municipal official.

This does not rule out “unforeseen events” such as strong storms that cause the discharge of contaminated water. In this case, the organizers would have “two or three days” to postpone the tests, he specified.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t rain in the three days before the Olympic Games”explains Françoise Lucas, a microbiology researcher at Paris-Este Créteil University.

However, the boreal summer of 2021 “was very humid”, he recalls.

– 34 species of fish

Michel Riottot, from the environmental association France Nature Environnement (FNE), is highly skeptical of a system developed with performic acid to treat wastewater at the Valenton treatment plant, southeast of Paris.

Riotto fears the “mass destruction of the ecosystem” if there is a leak of this acid, but the local sanitation service Siaap assures that this treatment is “much more effective than chemical disinfectants”.

Ammonium discharges have also been divided by 20 since 1997, which allowed the number of fish species to rise from 3 in the 1990s to 34 in the Seine and 37 in the Marne, according to the president of Siaap, François- Marie Didier.

Regarding leptospira, another potentially deadly bacterium, “transmission cases are limited”, “so it should not impact the development of the Games”, estimates the national reference center based at the Pasteur Institute.

(With information from AFP)

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