Ten years after the last collective screening campaign for lead poisoning, the Pas-de-Calais prefecture announces that it is relaunching the operation in the municipalities bordering Metaleurop. A decision that comes after the revelations of journalist Martin Boudot, on persistent lead pollution, twenty years after the closure of the foundry.
After the excitement of elected officials, citizens and associations, the prefecture of Pas-de-Calais decided to react. A new collective screening campaign for lead poisoning has been created since June 20, ten years after the last operation of this kind. A decision which follows the investigation by Martin Boudot, journalist for the investigative program Vert de Rage (France 5) and director of a documentary filmed on the consequences of lead pollution from the Metaleurop foundry, twenty years later. its closure. The results of this work had been presented publicly to the village hall of Evin-Malmaison, on April 29th.
“To respond to the concern recently reported by part of the territory’s population, a collective screening campaign is offered to children and young people under the age of 18″, indicated the prefect Louis Lefranc, in a press release. Five municipalities are affected by this system: Evin-Malmaison, Courcelles-lès-Lens, Noyelles-Godault, Leforest and Dourges. The first three are located within the PIG zone (project of general interest), delimiting the most polluted places. The other two were added, at the request of the mayors, by “precautionary principle”, as explained by Christian Musial, from Leforest.
The Regional Health Agency (ARS) thus sent, on Monday June 20, 7 600 letters to the families concerned by these screenings, which should therefore begin in the coming days. A long-awaited large-scale campaign, while the last one dates back to 2012. “We have to see if even today, in this area, there is possible lead contamination in children and adults, and if the pollution continues to spread, noted Christophe Pilch, president of the Hénin-Carvin urban community. The work of elected officials is to raise awareness among the population so that they go get tested, so that we can check whether there is really a health problem, or not.
In its press release, the Pas-de-Calais prefecture wishes to recall that “numerous screening and information actions have been corrected since the end of the 1990s, in order to measure and limit the impact of this pollution on the health of the inhabitants.” Eight collective campaigns were set up before 2012, within the three main municipalities: Evin-Malmaison, Courcelles-lès-Lens and Noyelles-Godault. Over the years, health authorities have observed a “significant drop”, especially since 2007, levels of lead poisoning. “During the last ten years, only one declaration of lead poisoning has been recorded in the municipalities concerned”, advance the prefecture.
Louis Lefranc explains the lack of systematic screening in the past decade as follows: “Due to the low participation in organized screenings and this clear decrease in impregnation, collective screening operations have been replaced by screenings that can be prescribed individually by any doctor in the sector.”
The inhabitants “will soon receive a letter from Health Insurance inviting them to go with their child to the laboratory of their choice to take a blood test, or to contact a nurse to take the sample at home”, specifies the prefecture of Pas-de-Calais. This screening is fully covered by health insurance. The result of this test will also be sent to the attending physician.
Lead in schools, playgrounds, stadiums or even gardens… Twenty years after the closure of Metaleurop in 2003, environmental pollution seems persistent, as demonstrated by the investigation by director Martin Boudot, published next September. In his documentary, the journalist and his team took samples from several places, with worrying results. For example, they were measured rates 3.6 to 5.7 times higher than the regulations in the vegetable gardens of Evin-Malmaison. Levels also above normal in facilities welcoming children, such as the Françoise Dolto school or the Gérard Houiller stadium.
That is why “a sampling and measurement program” will be set up by the Ecological Transition Agency (ADEME). This will target three areas, the same as for the Vert de Rage investigation. Firstly, the schools or crèches located within the perimeter of the PIG. Then, the floors near the sports areas of the Gérard Houiller stadium in Evin-Malmaison. Finally, a plot having benefited from the replacement of its land by ADEME as part of a development operation by an individual. “Similar tests have also been requested from the operator of the platform installed on the former Metaleurop site”, adds the prefecture.
What form will these soil measurements take? “Two samples will be taken, one relating to the first 5 centimeters of soil depth, the classic layer targeted to characterize exposure by direct contact, and the other relating to the first 25 centimeters of depth”, details the prefect in his press release.
In parallel with these checks carried out by means of the State, and before the announcement of the prefect, the Hénin Carvin agglomeration also undertook to carry out samples in the soil to assess the contamination rates. “We are in the process of commissioning professionals to do it”, a manager Christophe Pilch, president of the community of municipalities.
For several years, the action, or rather the inaction of the State, has been pointed out by several local actors, associations or elected officials. Fr 2018, the association Pige (For the general interest of Evinois), made up of 87 inhabitants of the town of Evin-Malmaison, filed a complaint to seek compensation for the “ecological damage” and “of anguish”. The urban community of Hénin-Carvin followed suit a few months later, with a new complaint against the State.
“If the prefect moves, so much the better, reacted Bruno Adolphi, president of the Pige. It is already a recognition of all the actions that the association has been carrying out for x time.” Beyond this satisfaction, the latter projects himself into the aftermath. What if all the samples confirm the alarming data from journalist Martin Boudot’s investigation? “I have no doubts about the results of these samples, he advances. We will again ask the State to strip all the contaminated land.” Namely, nearly 700 hectares around the former Metaleurop site.