Fensch pollution: ArcelorMittal released on appeal

The steel company ArcelorMittal had been sentenced in 2021 at first instance for pollution of the Fensch River. After appealing this decision, the factory was finally released, but remains guilty of operating a non-compliant installation.

In January 2021, the steel giant was convicted at first instance for two episodes of pollution in the Fensch River dating from 2019. Sentenced to a fine of 150,000 euros, ArcelorMittal appealed the decision. The facts have just been re-examined by the Metz Court of Appeal, which has pronounced a release.

The massive release of hydrocarbons from the coking plant had saturated the ambient air and a nauseating odor was poisoning the lives of local residents. Two episodes of pollution in 2019 had prompted the agglomeration community of Val de Fensch, and the city of Florange to file a complaint.

The Thionville court sentenced the steel number one at first instance in 2021. A fine of 300,000 euros was required, but the company was ultimately fined 150,000 euros for “discharge of a harmful substance into groundwater”also for “the operation of a classified installation that does not comply with a formal notice”.

Closed for two years, it is the old coking plant, used to make coke, a carbon residue, which is suspected of being the cause of the multiple episodes of pollution. ArcelorMittal had also not responded to the obligation of diagnosis of this coking plant.

On July 7, 2022, the Metz Court of Appeal confirmed the release for the two pollution episodes of 2019. Concerning the first, that relating to the month of March, the facts were blamed on the company ArcelorMittal Atlantique Lorraine (AMAL), a company which became, after the merger, ArcelorMittal France. A new company name that has enabled the industry to avoid prosecution, as previously during the case of levies on the Hayange slag heap.

Regarding the second pollution case of August 2029, the Court of Appeal considered that the link with ArcelorMittal was not established. The steel company, however, remains guilty of exploitation despite a formal notice, and is fined 50,000 euros.

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