Beaches closed on French Riviera after pollution alert

Beaches closed on French Riviera after pollution alert
Photo: AFP
Holidaymakers in the French Riviera are being warned not to swim if they see the red flag, as several beaches were closed due to high levels of pollution.

The beaches of Borély, de l'Huveaune and de Bonneveine in Marseille were closed on Sunday after pollution tests found that the water was not safe to swim in.

It is the latest in a series of closures announced by Marseille authorities since the start of the summer as the city struggles to get to grips with pollution levels off its coast.


Marseille has long had difficulties with water pollution levels due a combination of crowded beaches, city infrastructure and the geography of the coastline.

One holidaymaker told French radio station FranceInfo: “The water is hot, but we don't really want to get into it. There are things floating.”

There were also complaints from athletes taking part in the Marseille triathlon over the weekend of July 21st that the water was dirty and smelled of sewage.

But the Marseille mayor's office says that the majority of the time the water is clean, and there are closures simply because the water is rigorously tested, and beaches closed if the correct standards are not reached.

Deputy mayor Didier Réault said: “Last year, our beaches were 94 percent open throughout the summer, compared to 91 percent in the south west.”

He added that many of the closures last year were due to storms, when the rain gutters overflow and discharge into the sea the mairie is forced to close the beaches.

If a beach is closed to swimmers a red flag will be flying, and anyone who ignores it risks a fine of €38.

However Marseille lifeguards say they prefer to issue warnings rather than fines, and last year fined only one person out of the 2 million who visit the city's beaches over the course of a year.

Philippe Brunetti, head of the Coastal Safety and Prevention Unit, added that a better reason for not swimming was the risk of gastrointestinal illness from water that has breached safe pollution levels.

He told local newspaper La Provence: “People don't really understand that there is a proven danger if they drink the water. They can report one or more gastrointestinal problems.”

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