Pollution in two rivers in Haute-Loire: the Fishing Federation takes legal action

It is a complex file, but very important in the eyes of the fishermen, who again found himself at the bar of the criminal court of Puy-en-Velay on Tuesday July 5; a case closed without further action in January 2021. Hence the desire of the Haute-Loire Fishing Federation to file a complaint against SCI du Fer, owner of the site from which the pyralene pollution originated.

abandoned transformers

In September 2019, PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) pollution was detected in the Rouchouse wastewater treatment plant in Sainte-Sigolène. The water police are carrying out their investigation and going back to a former industrial site located upstream, near the town of Sainte-Sigolène. This is where a Eurotransmissions unit is located, closed in February 2001. Owner of the site, SCI du Fer was arrested by the Haute-Loire Fishing Federation for this pollution. Because the site has not been cleaned and houses three old transformers, with two of them, 600 liters of oil containing pyralene.

During the summer of 2019, the site was vandalized. One of the transformers was laid on the ground, causing several hundred liters of oil to spill. After seeping into the ground, the PCBs ended up in the treatment plant and then in the two rivers downstream: the Piat and the Foletier, polluted over 12 km.

For the fishermen’s lawyer who speaks of “severe PCB pollution”, the responsibility of the SCI is clear.

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“A crime of recklessness”

“The owners of the land left the transformers to deteriorate on the site which was not protected. There was nothing, not even a fence. And all this while they had the obligation to treat these oils in the transformers and to have them evacuated, ”explains Maître Thibault Soleilhac at the hearing. For him, there is “a crime of recklessness” on the part of the SCI “or at worst a culpable negligence”.

Analyzes not precise enough

The analyzes carried out downstream on the flesh of the fish report levels of 150 to 1,700 higher than the accepted standards. But no analysis has ever been carried out in the water of the river upstream of the polluted site. Hence the impossibility, according to the defence, of proving that the PCBs do indeed come from the transformers of this industrial site.
“On a stigmatized neglect of the SCI. We ruled out the cause and effect link between the vandalism of one of the transformers and the PCB found in the wastewater treatment plant 5 km downstream”, regrets Maître Sophie Metenier-Grand, lawyer for the SCI, who also points to single out the lack of in-depth analyzes formally revealing the origin of the pollution. “There is no indication that the PCBs found in the fish chair are the same as those on the SCI site”. And to plead for a release of all the financial reparations requested by the Haute-Loire fishing federation.

The court reserved judgment for Monday, August 22.

Lionel Ciochetto

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