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CRIME

Toxic leak into Paris’ River Seine ‘was sabotage’ says company

Hundreds of litres of toxic wastewater have leaked into Paris' Seine River from a plant belonging to Franco-Swiss cement giant Lafarge-Holcim, local reports said, sparking outrage from French officials.

Toxic leak into Paris' River Seine 'was sabotage' says company

Lafarge acknowledged the spillage but insisted it had been the result of sabotage, rather than an intentional act by the company.

The contaminated liquid is composed of a mixture of cement, wastewater treatment liquid and plastic microfibres and comes from a Lafarge site in the east of the city, Europe 1 radio said.

“It's a complete environmental scandal, as we have been working with our partners for a long time to improve the quality of the River Seine,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter.

 

The city government “will ask prosecutors to open a case for these grave acts that harm our environment,” she added.

Paris prosecutors told AFP they had opened an investigation into pollution of the river with harmful products on August 27th.

In a statement, Lafarge said it was the “victim” and said the spillage was provoked by a “malicious act”.

The cement giant said the leakage has now been stopped and controls reinforced.

Deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said the town hall was “very angry” with the firm, which should have informed the city government of the problem.

This incident “will not be without consequences on our overall attitude on these kinds of sites,” Gregoire added.

Since Tuesday, city-dwellers have been informing Paris authorities of harmful practices of a range of cement-making companies, such as toxic waste outpourings into the river, the official said.

Sanctions are not heavy or dissuasive enough, he added.

Environmental activists have previously accused Lafarge of contaminating the Seine and in February staged demonstrations against the Paris site.

 

Environment Minister Barbara Pompili said on Twitter that a team from her ministry would be going to the scene and those responsible would face justice.

In April 2019, France's Vinci firm was accused of discharging cement wastewater in the River Seine. The company was subsequently fined €50,000.

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ENVIRONMENT

Operation begins to rescue killer whale stranded in France’s Seine river

French authorities are attempting to lure the orca back to sea using a drone and loudspeakers.

Operation begins to rescue killer whale stranded in France's Seine river

A team of scientific experts have begun a mission to rescue the orca which has now been trapped in the Seine river for more than a week. 

The young whale was first spotted on May 16th near the port of Le Havre, around the Pont de Normandie, while the most recent sighting was further inland – about 20km from Rouen, in the Eure region.

The Seine-Maritime prefecture has warned that the creature is in a “weakened” state, because of prolonged exposure to fresh water and a lack of food. 

In a bid to lure it back to sea, they are using a drone which emits orca sounds through a speaker. 

“The use of these non-invasive methods, from several hundred metres’ distance, will make it possible to avoid using ships in the immediate proximity of the animal, which could aggravate its stress and endanger it survival, as well as the safety of rescuers,” said the Seine-Maritime prefecture in a statement.

Experts think that the young male was separated from his group, and might be on the search for another. This typically happens when a matriarch in the pod dies.

“They are very social animals, so it is not easy for them to be alone,” explained Delphine Eloi of the GECC regional, cetacean protection group to RTL. Eloi went on to explain that the orca is likely in poor health, as its dorsal fin appears to be completely round. 

Killer whales, which despite their name belong to the dolphin family, are occasionally spotted in the English Channel but such sightings are considered rare, let alone in a river.

“Its life is in danger. We are really very, very worried. Its state of health is very poor,” said Gerard Mauger, vice president of the GECC regional, cetacean protection group. 

“It is far from the sea. It is really complicated to find solutions to encourage it to head to salt water.”

He said the animal is “very thin” but likely weighs over a tonne.

Experts have reminded the public that the whale is likely not dangerous to people – there has never been a reported Orca attack on a human in the wild – though it is still advisable to keep a safe distance from it.

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