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VIDEO. “Further investigation” reveals how the Grand Paris site circumvents the regulations to store polluted soil

To build the Grand Paris Express, its 200 km of metro lines and its 68 stations, the site is titanic: no less than 43 million tonnes of earth must be excavated. Part of this land passes through ports located along the Seine, where it is sorted before being shipped to suitable storage sites. Sorting must distinguish inert soil from polluted soil, for example sulphate (harmful to humans in drinking water).

On the Gennevilliers site, according to a protagonist of the port filmed with a hidden camera, this sorting is far from rigorous. “I can tell you one thing: it is not inert earth, it is not possible, he says. It’s just sulphated earth. “ Loads of dozens of trucks are mixed “in the same bin which weighs 2,000 tonnes”, he exposes.

“They take a sample at random, and if they don’t like it, they take a little bit from the other side of the heap, they do an analysis, and then it’s okay …”

An informant

to “Further investigation”

To circumvent the regulations, some operators would therefore go so far as to modify the results of their analyzes …

The informant of “Complément d’études” put the journalists on the track of a barge which must leave the port in the direction of Normandy. It transports 2,000 tonnes of officially inert earth. Land with 1,800 mg of sulfate per kilo, according to analyzes provided by the operator. A rate a little above the standards, but tolerated by the authorities for landfills of inert earth, and without risk for the environment.

Journalists tracked this barge using the merchant navy’s GPS tracking system. They find it moored at the industrial port of Saint-Aubin-lès-Elbeuf, south of Rouen. The soil from Gennevilliers is unloaded in tractor trailers, to end up 650 meters away, in the lake of a former quarry. Its owner has obtained authorization to dump more than 650,000 tonnes of strictly inert earth there. Because the site is sensitive: it adjoins the Seine and its water tables.

A sulfate level five times higher than the initial analyzes

The journalists took a sample from this pile from the barge they followed. They sent it to an approved analysis laboratory, the same as that of the operator of the Gennevilliers site. The result is very different from the data he provided: the sulphate level is 5 times higher than the initial analyzes, and nearly 9 times above the current standard. If this land had been sent to the right place, it would have cost twice as much to store it …

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Faced with the results of this investigation, one of the managers of the Société du Grand Paris, Bernard Cathelain, said he was aware of the risks of potential abuse and highlighted the guarantees provided: a GPS tracking system for trucks and barges. unique waste in Europe. But this system is partly based on trust in the operators responsible for sorting the land … “If there are abuses or false statements in the chain, we will take the necessary remedies, but today we have no such alert.”, he assures.

Extract from “Illegal discharges, a French scandal”, a document to see in “Further investigation” on March 25, 2021.

> Replays of France Télévisions news magazines are available on the Franceinfo website and its mobile application (iOS & Android), “Magazines” section.

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