PARIS (June 25, 2024) – With the countdown to the 2024 Olympics in Paris underway, concerns over the water quality of the River Seine have resurfaced despite years of efforts and substantial investments by French authorities.

Over the past decade, approximately €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion) has been dedicated to upgrading Paris’s sewerage system and constructing new water treatment facilities.

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Despite these efforts, the city continues to grapple with a century-old sewer network that struggles to manage the volume of stormwater during heavy rains. This inadequacy results in periodic discharges of untreated sewage directly into the River Seine, compromising its water quality.

Recent tests conducted during the week of June 10-16 have revealed alarming levels of E. Coli, a bacteria indicating the presence of fecal matter.

Readings consistently exceeded the maximum permissible limits for Olympic swimming events, raising doubts about the river’s readiness to host aquatic sports.

Marc Guillaume, the top government official for the Paris region, acknowledged the ongoing challenges, stating, “There’s no doubt that the water quality is not there yet.”

However, he expressed optimism that dry summer weather could alleviate the current issues, potentially bringing the water quality back within acceptable standards by the time of the games.

In preparation for the Olympics, organizers have contingencies in place for open-water swimming events. The schedule allows flexibility to delay competitions in case of adverse weather conditions, which could exacerbate water pollution.

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In the worst-case scenario, where water quality remains a concern, the triathlon event could be modified into a duathlon, omitting the swimming segment altogether.

Despite these challenges, there are voices of confidence among athletes and officials. French open-water swimming coach Stéphane Lecat pointed out that similar concerns arose during previous Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo, yet events proceeded without major incident.

Lecat noted, “There are places around Europe that are a lot worse than the Seine, and we swim there every year.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has been a proponent of improving public access to the river, faced a setback when she had to postpone a planned swim to demonstrate the river’s cleanliness.

Promising to make good on her commitment, she now plans to take to the water during the week of July 14, underscoring her administration’s commitment to ensuring the river’s safety and cleanliness.

Looking forward, the city aims to establish public swimming spots along the Seine starting next year, further emphasizing its dedication to revitalizing this iconic waterway.

As Paris gears up to welcome athletes and spectators from around the globe, the question of water quality remains a critical issue. While challenges persist, authorities and organizers are working tirelessly to ensure that the River Seine meets the stringent standards required for a successful and safe Olympic Games.

For now, all eyes are on the skies, hoping that favorable weather conditions will play a crucial role in achieving the desired water quality improvements before the opening ceremony.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members