The Seine River in Paris is set to become a swimming ground for the Olympic Games in 2024. The idea was pushed by the Paris’ City Hall, which has triggered a number of organisations to develop cleaning strategies to turn the polluted Seine into a swimmable river.
1. Murky Seine
According to France24, some 360 tonnes of waste are dragged out of the murky waters every year. Everything from bikes to scooters and old safes are polluting the waters — items that must be pulled out and recycled.
Paris’ Mayor Anne Hidalgo has pledged to allow Parisians to swim in the Seine, if the clean-up succeeds. Such achievement would allow the French river to host Olympic events, including the triathlon and the 10km freestyle.
For the time being, 70% of French people say they wouldn’t jump in the Seine claiming health risks. According to the Ifop survey conducted in July, only 12% of the inquired would go for a swim in the Seine.
A law dating from 1923 bans swimming in the Seine because of its pollution levels.
2. EU-funded project
The EU-funded project Digital Water City is working towards reverting the trend and the project’s team is trying to obtain a water quality clean enough to make bathing in the Seine a risk-free reality.
“Sanitary safety is a determining factor in authorising bathing,” said Gabrielle Bouleau, a researcher at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE).
For example, to ensure microbial safety, the project is using a new sensor for real-time bacterial measurements. In parallel, the Digital Water City teams are working to adapt the sewage systems to the effects of global warming and improve the quality of the Parisian river.
In any polluted river, the presence of numerous bacteria, such as enterococci or E.coli, can cause diarrhoea, nausea, gastroenteritis and urinary infections.
“Most urban pollution is treated in wastewater treatment plants, but there are still a few discharges with the presence of E.coli bacteria (indicative of faecal matter) in the water,” said Bouleau.
📣LIVE FROM THE DWC CITIES— digital-water.city (@digitalwater_eu) April 27, 2021
In #Paris🇫🇷, our team is working hard to improve the Seine’s #bathingwater quality ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games🏊♀️
👇Read our article to check out our progress!👇https://t.co/5UoysGtq2Y pic.twitter.com/fj0DhOC14d
3. Infrastructure and tourism
Despite the cleaning potential, the association La Seine en Partage notes that the river’s infrastructure is likely not ideal for athletes to swim at the Olympic Games.
“A river is a living element. The Seine has a hydrological power, a temperature. It can present dangers in the same way as a river or a sea. We must first think about the development, its power, and the safety of people,” stated La Seine en Partage.
The association also identified tourist boats as a potential challenge to keep the Seine in good conditions. Given the seven million tourists who cross the French river each year, it becomes harder to maintain clean water levels.