Paris looking at Plan B if River Seine remains unfit for Olympic swimming

With three weeks to go until the Paris Olympics, organizers are making contingency plans as questions remain about the safety of the River Seine that is due to host open-water swimming events during the summer Games.

The latest testing results from monitoring group Eau de Paris released on Thursday raised some hopes, showing that water pollution levels in Paris’s River Seine have improved over the past week.

The concentrations of E.coli and enterococci bacteria were below legal thresholds six out of nine days between June 24-July 2, according to the data published by the city of Paris.

“Despite a flow rate that remains high, the water quality of the Seine has improved over the period observed, with water quality in line with the thresholds defined by the European directive over six days,” the city said in a statement along with the results.

Just a week ago, test results revealed that enterococci exceeded a concentration of 1000 colony-forming units (cfu)/100 ml, more than double the 400 cfu/100ml limit set by European law and the E.coli concentration was almost four times higher than permitted.

If the pollution levels remain high, Paris organizers will likely have to turn to a Plan B to avoid health risks to athletes, said Marc Habash, an associate professor at the University of Guelph’s school of environmental sciences.

“If there are high levels of E.coli and streptococci suggesting the water is unsafe, the water is considered of poor quality, for the most part, they will have to make a decision on whether they’ll hold the swimming event or not,” he told Media in an interview.

“If the water quality is deemed not safe, they won’t allow the swimmers to swim.”

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