Chemical pollution in the Gulf of Fos, France: Surfrider Foundation Europe takes to court


© Sébastien Nogier/EPA (Ouest France)

Following a ferric chloride solution leak from a company called Kem One at Lavéra in Martigues, France, a toxic slick formed in the Gulf of Fos leading, in particular, to the closure of several bathing sites. Although the pollution is no longer visible today, the ecological impact of this chemical pollution on marine species remains significant. Surfrider Europe requests in court that Kem One is held responsible for the damage caused.  

A corrosive chemical agent leak  

It was on the night of July 22nd to 23rd, 2020 that a leak was detected in a ferric chloride solution storage tank in the production site of a company called Kem One in Lavéra, Martigues. This corrosive product, mainly used for wastewater treatment, passed through the site's pluvial network, flowing into the Mediterranean and creating a toxic water table of around 6 hectares at the Anse d'Auguette cove. After the intervention of forty marine firefighters and ten more troops on land, as well as a surveillance plane and a ship specialized in pollution control at sea, the slick was resolved.

The measures of banning swimming and nautical activities in the area announced that morning were lifted after analysis showed no deviation from the normal composition of seawater. Despite this analysis and quick resolution of the pollution, the consequences of this incident on marine flora and fauna are certain. The area is located in a classified “natural zone of ecological, fauna and flora interest” bordering the Côte Bleue Marine Park. The sites are home to rare and protected species certainly affected by the spill. 

© AFP/Bertrand Langlois (Le Parisien)

Surfrider Foundation Europe files a complaint 

Surfrider Foundation Europe joins other organizations fighting for the protection of the environment to bring a legal case against Kem One, seeking compensation for the environmental damage caused. The NGO therefore files a complaint for the spill of harmful substances that have resulted in water pollution. Once the complaint is filed, it is now up to the Public Prosecutor to decide whether proceedings will be taken against the manufacturer. As we are taking legal action, Surfrider lists this action under the Coastal Defenders program, to protect the Mediterranean coast affected by this incident.  

Site security questioned 

Kem One, one of the leaders in the production of PVC, is located at the Lavéra site, one of the largest industrial complexes in Europe. Located around the Etang de Berre, this petrochemical site generates pollution that regularly creates fear among residents. Classified Seveso high threshold, meaning that there is a risk of major incidents, the plant has already been the subject of several formal notices requiring it to strengthen the safety of its chlorine storage. Today, the investigation is underway to clarify the causes of the leak on July 23, 2020. According to the company, the index "hazardous materials released" from the Ministry of Ecological Transition, is evaluated at 3 out of a scale of 6. 

Though “under control”, this chemical pollution represents a high risk for marine flora and fauna of the Gulf of Fos and calls for the attention of Surfrider Europe and its Coastal Defenders. This dedicated group of ocean protectors has earned 81 coastal victories during nearly three decades of fight and is eager to claim another! Follow the link to help them and discover their action. 

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