Paris wants to clean the Seine so one can bathe by the Olympics 2024

Published by Cécile D. · Photos by Laurent P. · Published on 31 May 2021 at 18h10
Bathing in the Seine: sweet utopia or real project? Paris has set up a sanitation plan of the river so that by the Olympics 2024, everyone can swim in it.

It was in 1990. Jacques Chirac – then Paris mayor – promised on “La Marche du Siècle” TV show: “In the Seine, the variety of species is always growing. As for the latest census, over 25 different fishes were found in fitting living conditions in the Seine. (…) This is why I claim we can make a river clean, and I even said that within three years, I will bathe in the Seine in front of witnesses to prove the Seine has become a clean river”.

Promise he has never been able to hold. But, the idea sticked around! Anne Hidalgo wishes to make the Seine clean as well. Paris mayor wishes to make the river clean enough so that everyone can bathe by 2024.

The goal is to host the 10km free swim and triathlon challenges in the Seine. The pending arrival of the Paris 2024 Olympics make the public authority increase the cleaning and sanitation process of the river. The municipality expects to give Parisians the possibility to bathe in their river, an activity they are banned to do since 1923, which is about a century ago!

Le Parisien tells us more about this big-scaled project likely to cost several hundreds of millions of euros. The daily interviews Paris deputy mayor for sustainable development and water, Célia Blaudel. She admits the challenge will be hard to complete: “We’ll have to give it a serious boost. But I’m super optimistic. The quality of the Seine is far better than twenty years ago. Proof of it: today, there are 35 species of fish, against only 2 in the 1970’s”, the states.

The public authority and local players have been working on this demanding project since 2016. The Comité Seine – gathering the water agency, the departments, the Siaap, Haropa, the City of Paris, the regional prefecture – has divided the mission into four projects.

First, it will be about fitting water treatment plants with ultraviolet filters to get rid of enterococcus bacteria and E.coli. Then, it will be about creating new stocking pools to collect rainwater. The third step plans to thought up again the connection of the suburban areas so that wastewater no longer pour into the Seine. Last but not least, barges should be banned from pouring their wastewater into the Seine.

Blaudel confesses the biggest part of the mission will rely on the non-compliant or defective connections sending private people’s wastewater into the Parisian river. “This is the topic we still need to move forward. The rest is coming along nicely, especially as for boats’ connection that is ongoing and major renovations in public grids. For this aspect of private connections, we need people to know about aids available. The city has decided to bring three million euros to accompany compliance upgrades in addition to the already existing grants. We want to make the remaining balance for private people as low as possible”. The remaining balance reaches about €1,500 in an investment that can reach €12,000.

We are curious to see how this major challenge will evolve over time. Yet, note if the sanitation of the Seine is a success, Parisians will not be allowed to bathe anywhere. Well-defined bathing areas will be made. The city of Paris has identified nine possible locations, from the Trocadero to the Pont Neuf, via the Bois de Boulogne, the Port de Bercy and the Gare d’Austerlitz.

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