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Seine ‘unsafe for Olympics’ due to ‘alarming’ levels of E.coli bacteria

A charity has raised concerns the Seine in Paris could be “unsafe for the Olympics” due to the “alarming” levels of E.coli bacteria found in the water.

The huge 777-km river, which cuts through Paris, is set to stage several Olympic swimming events in around 100 days times.

But the Surfrider Foundation, a French water charity, says it has taken 14 samples over a six-month period and found the water to be potentially dangerous in all but one.

The charity penned on open letter saying it “wanted to share with stakeholders … rising concerns about the quality of the Seine but also the risks faced by athletes moving in contaminated water”.

French authorities have committed to a huge clean up of the river before the Olympic beging on July 26. The Seine is set to play a big part in the games, providing the backdrop for the opening ceremony and hosting swimming events and the triathlon.

They have spent around €1.4 billion (£1.2 billion) on upgrading the sewage system and stormwater treatment facilities in Paris to clean the water ahead of the games.

It came after three test events in 2023 had to be cancelled due to the levels of E.coli found in the water, reports Le Monde.

Surfrider said tests were carried out by the laboratory Eau de Paris and environmental analysis group Analy-Co from September to March under the bridges Alexandre-III and l’Alma, where the Olympics sports are to take place.

Surfrider said tests had been carried out by the laboratory Eau de Paris and environmental analysis group Analy-Co from September to March underneath the bridges Alexandre-III and l’Alma, where the Olympics sports are to take place.

It said readings showed levels of both E. coli and enterococci bacteria were often double, sometimes even three times, higher than maximum European amounts allowed. Both bacteria indicate faecal matter was present.

“In health terms, [bathers] are exposed to illnesses such as gastro-enteritis, conjunctivitis, ear infections and skin problems,” Marc Valmassoni, campaign co-ordinator for the charity told France Info radio.

Olympic organisers and authorities in the French capital hope a new storm water facility will open this month, meaning it can help lower pollution levels before new sewage connections are built.

Authorities say the “alarming” readings were taken during a particularly wet winter, with heavy rainfall well known to overwhelm the sewage system in Paris.

Should the Olympic sports not be able to take place in the Seine, it is understood there is no “plan B” in place for the open water events.

French President Emmanuel Macron has previously insisted the water would be fine for competitors however. He even pledged to take a swim himself.

“I’ll do it, but I won’t give you the date. You all risk being there,” Macron told reporters with a smile when addressing taking the plunge.

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