Biganos, France


On the 5th of July 2012, an accident occurred in the Smufit Kappa paper factory in Biganos (Gironde Department), which led to a crack in one of the tanks. As a result, hundreds of cubic meters of black liquid discharged into the Lacanau Stream and from there flowed into the Leyre River, which is the main tributary of the Arcachon Basin. Despite the consequences of the accident, a Prefectural Decree from the 9th of July 2012 authorised the factory to discharge a further 50,000 cubic meters of black liquid via the La Salie Wharf, threatening both users and the fauna and flora in this particularly sensitive area.

Surfrider Foundation Europe pressed charges against Smurfit on the 25th of July 2012 for the discharge of said black liquid into the natural environment. The lawsuit took place on the 24th of June 2013 at a tribunal in Bordeaux. The SFE Gironde Chapter got mobilised with the Keeper right from the beginning to offer its support, and the same went for the association Le betey, plage boisée à sauvegarder, which is also involved in another battle.

On the 25th of July 2012, SFE doubled its efforts by involving the public prosecutor in January 2013 and the Biganos police station in February 2013. Two gatherings took place on the 28th of July 2012: The first, organised by the people, was a 'Walk through the streets of Arcachon to the Sub-Prefecture' and drew a crowd of more than 500 participants. The second was organised by Surfrider and consisted in a Strike of the Water Sports Activists, demanding the complete halt of all discharges via the wharf. The latter gathered more than 150 people. Thanks to this mobilisation, SFE was able to inform its members about this assault on the environment.

An informative meeting was organised on the 7th of October 2012 by the Keeper, the local chapter, and SFE to take stock of the local actions which had been carried out so far. The paper mill declined its invitation but has since struck up talks with the users (fishermen, surfers, and others), in which the Keeper is participating. The Keeper managed to set up a specific dialogue between Smurfit, the Intercommunal Syndicate of the Arcachon Basin (SIBA), and local surf schools; a hitherto unseen form of local consultation. One of the outcomes of this consultation was an agreement to create an alerting protocol to be implemented when the water appears suspicious. Hence, the surf clubs are now taking water samples, which are then passed on to SIBA for analysis.  All concerned parties have been made aware of this.

This form of cooperation has not been attempted in the past. The meetings are organised quarterly, and they promote transparent and constructive dialogue with the aim of moving forward together.

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