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    Inside the £1bn filter 'cleansing' the Seine in Paris – and why it might not work for the Olympics

    Environmentalists are still detecting dangerous levels of E. coli and enterococci in the water of the Seine. Photo: BLONDET ELIOT/SHUTTERSTOCK

    Glistening in the early spring sunshine, the world's most romantic river looks clear enough to dive into, but only if you squint a little.

    This stretch of the Seine in Paris – by Austerlitz train station on the French capital's legendary Left Bank leads to Notre Dame Cathedral and golden bridges where lovers from around the world embrace.

    The waterway will soon become even more attractive, officials say, because right under my feet is a James Bond-themed cave that is the center of a cleanup operation that will allow swimming for the first time in a century.< /p>

    Not only that, but athletes will actually race along the Seine during the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, the government says.

    The City of Light is built on impossible myths, but Austerlitz is at the heart of the pool science and in particular an ambitious engineering project costing over £1 billion.

    It contains a complex of pipes and pumps connected to a reservoir 50 m (164 ft) in diameter and 30 m deep.

    < p>Together with a 2,500-foot tunnel, it can hold 13 million gallons of bacteria-laden rainwater. , before diverting it from the river to a processing plant, technically leaving the Seine clean.

    The plan is to reduce the number of overflowing sewage discharges into the river per year from 12 to just two. .

    Emmanuel Macron, the president, is so confident that everything will work out that he has promised to wear a speedo to be first in line before the procession of barges along the Seine takes part in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on July 26.

    p>Amelie Oudea-Castera, his sports minister, said this week: “I am confident in the ambitious action plan, which costs €1.3 billion (£1.1 billion) and has been underway for three years.”

    < p>But there are already many problems threatening the surprisingly expensive project.

    Emmanuel Macron, President of France, during the opening of the Olympic Center water sports. Photo: FRAT

    Environmentalists are still finding dangerous levels of E. coli and enterococci in the water, and pre-Olympic competitions are regularly cancelled.< /p>

    The worst part is that officials involved in Operation Swimming, as it is informally called, know how everyone else that – like King Canute – they can't do anything about nature.

    It will only take a few summer storms for the work of the Austerlitz basin to be deemed unnecessary.

    There is no guarantee that it will work after excessive amounts of rain, a Paris city hall official said. “Hotel de Ville,” said The Telegraph.

    “Yes, it can rain heavily in Paris in the summer, and yes, all expenses and work may be at risk.”

    p>< p>Race officials have already discussed the possibility of postponing the triathlon due to heavy rain.

    The reason for this grim outlook can be explained relatively simply: excessive amounts of stormwater will overwhelm the Austerlitz complex, just as Paris's ancient sewer system failed to cope for decades.

    In particular, one of the largest engineering projects in recent Paris history may not be large enough, despite being able to hold enough water to fill 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

    Similar unpredictability is evident in other aspects of Operation Swimming. , which extends to four other suburban sites that attempt to regulate the city's sewer and waterways.

    A notoriously irresponsible population

    These are areas that have suffered from reckless industrialization and a notoriously irresponsible population.

    Not so long ago, for example, morgues dumped corpses in the Seine, while revelers still regularly dump all their leftovers, from wine bottles to e-scooters.

    Local residents continue to object to the work being carried out, especially when municipal teams ask if they can dig up their pipes.

    About 20,000 property owners who currently dump their toilets and kitchens directly into the Seine or its tributary the Marne have contacted us, but many have refused.

    This applies even when people are offered grants. the cost of the renovation work is equivalent to approximately £5,000.

    Recommended

    Paris 2024 Olympics: everything you need to know Read more

    Samuel Colin-Canives, in charge of sewerage projects at the mayor's office, said there was no attempt to “clean the Seine” but simply to prevent the “discharge of untreated water into the river” as has long been the case. for a long time.

    Whatever the purpose, there was certainly no widespread trust in the clean-up of the Parisians I spoke to along the Seine.

    Noline N'owessem, a 20-year-old student, said: “I have to admit that the water doesn't look very attractive at the moment and I don't see it improving much in the next few months. I'm definitely not going swimming.”

    Louis Ortega, 63, owner of one of the famous “bouquiniste” bookshops on the banks of the Seine, was a little more optimistic, saying he “could have a fall” if everyone else would do it.

    Mr Ortega added: “It's all about how successful the pool is. If all Olympic swimmers take part, I think many more will follow. If everything goes wrong, a lot of money will be wasted.”

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