Paris’ Seine River tests for E. coli 10 times above acceptable limit a month out from 2024 Summer Olympics

The world is officially a month from the start of the 2024 Summer Olympics — and new tests just revealed that one of the Games’ focal points for events, the Seine River in Paris, isn’t ready. For the third consecutive week, samples from the Seine River show that the waterway, which is planned for some Olympic swimming events, has unsafe levels of bacteria linked to fecal matter. 

The latest tests from the Eau de Paris monitoring group, taken between June 17 and June 23, show E. coli bacteria, which is often linked to fecal matter and can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, pneumonia and sepsis, was 10 times above the acceptable levels, according to AFP, based on results released by the Paris mayor’s office. At no point have levels fallen below the upper limits, AFP said.

Seine River testing from shows the waterway continues to have unsafe levels of E. coli a month out from the start of the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Eau de Paris

Enterococci bacteria have also been detected in the river water for weeks, and while levels were better in the latest test, they were still unsafe. 

“Water quality remains degraded because of unfavourable hydrological conditions, little sunshine, below-average seasonal temperatures and upstream pollution,” the mayor’s office said, AFP reported. 

Seine River testing shows the waterway continues to have unsafe levels of enterococci bacteria a month from the start of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Eau de Paris

Rainfall has only worsened the issue, as it washes sewage and wastewater into the waterway. The summer sun and heat is helpful in deteriorating bacteria levels, the report with the test results says, but heavy rains like those that occurred the week of June 18 only increase bacterial levels. 

The Olympics, which begin July 26, is set to include triathlon events starting July 30 and marathon swimming on Aug. 8 and 9 in the Seine near the Alexandre III bridge. While the city has spent $1.5 billion in trying to clean up the waterway, it has so far been unsuccessful in removing the contamination and quelling concerns among athletes and locals. 

Many Parisians had launched a social media campaign known as #JeChieDansLaSeineLe23Juin in which they threatened to defecate in the river on June 23. The event, whose phrase translates to “I sh*t in the Seine on June 23,” didn’t happen, although many are still expressing outrage over officials pushing the river events. 

Olympics organizers are also not backing down from the set schedule. 

“By the second half of July, things will settle down,” Tony Estanguet, head of the Paris 2024 organizing committee, said. 

“At some point, we’ll have summer weather,” Marc Guillaume, who is in charge of the Seine, added. “That’s when the plan will take full effect.” 

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