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Dirty Eyesore Or Economic Lifeblood? Paris Conflicted Over Concrete Plant

Dirty Eyesore Or Economic Lifeblood? Paris Conflicted Over Concrete Plant

PARIS: When Maryse Fourcade takes a stroll near her home in Paris, she can see the Eiffel Tower, the Mirabeau bridge immortalised in poetry and song, and – less romantically – a concrete factory.

The operator of the plant, Swiss-headquartered construction giant Lafarge Holcim, has been accused of tipping industrial waste into the Seine river from this factory, and another further up the river.

The firm says it is taking immediate action to make sure the incidents don’t happen again.

The accusations are part of a broader tension between different ideas about what sort of city Paris should be: a beautiful, tranquil haven for residents and tourists, or a thrusting global capital with a vibrant economy.

“We don’t understand what this factory is doing in front of a historical monument, the Mirabeau bridge, which … is next to the Eiffel Tower and in the middle of thousands of residents, walkers, runners, families,” Fourcade said of the Lafarge plant near her home.

A spokesman for the Paris prosecutor’s office said a probe has been opened after video footage emerged of a Lafarge cement mixer at its site on Paris’s Bercy quay discharging a white liquid into the river.

Waste has also been dumped into the river from the Lafarge site near the Mirabeau bridge on at least two occasions this year, according to photographs shown to Reuters by Fourcade, a member of a campaign group seeking the closure of the plant.

One photograph, which she said was taken on June 9 this year, showed a Lafarge cement mixer discharging water from its mixer into the river, leaving a slick in the water.

In a statement, Francois Petry, the head of Lafarge Holcim France said: “We take these isolated incidents that took place in two of our sites by La Seine very seriously.”

He said the firm was no longer working with a driver involved in one of the incidents – he did not specify which one – and that he had personally reminded employees and contractors about complying with company standards.

All the firm’s Paris sites will undergo an audit, and a re-training programme has been launched, Petry said.

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(Additional reporting by Mathieu Protard; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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