Court rules France responsible in toxic algae case

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Court rules France responsible in toxic algae case
FILE - This Aug. 20, 2009 file photo shows the ulva algae-covered beach of Saint Michel en Greve, Brittany, France. A court in western France has held the French state responsible for the 2009 death of a horse on a Brittany beach choked with toxic algae. The decision on Monday July 22, 2014 at an appeals court in Nantes represents a major victory for ecologists and for the horse’s owner, Vincent Petit, who nearly died himself when he and his mount were suddenly mired in muck that gave off toxic hydrogen sulfide emitted by rotting algae. (AP Photo/David Vincent, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009 file photo, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, left, and Saint-Michel-en-Greve Mayor Rene Ropartz inspect beaches of Saint-Michel-en-Greve, Brittany, France. Experts say the decaying algae, a blight fed in this case by intensive farming, threatens other beaches around France and the world, from the United States to China. (AP Photo/David Vincent, file)
A town employee walks in algae, on Saint-Michel-en-Greve beach, Brittany,Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, citing a government-ordered report, said that decomposing algae covering some beaches in Brittany represents a health risk. The study ordered last week confirmed the toxic nature of gases emanating from decomposing green algae spread over numerous beaches that killed a horse last month. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
A man seen with a kite, on Saint-Michel-en-Greve beach, Brittany,Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, citing a government-ordered report, said that decomposing algae covering some beaches in Brittany represents a health risk. The study ordered last week confirmed the toxic nature of gases emanating from decomposing green algae spread over numerous beaches that killed a horse last month. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
Algae, seen on Saint-Michel-en-Greve beach, Brittany, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, citing a government-ordered report, said that decomposing algae covering some beaches in Brittany represents a health risk. The study ordered last week confirmed the toxic nature of gases emanating from decomposing green algae spread over numerous beaches that killed a horse last month. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
A town employee walks in algae, on Saint-Michel-en-Greve beach, Brittany,Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, citing a government-ordered report, said that decomposing algae covering some beaches in Brittany represents a health risk. The study ordered last week confirmed the toxic nature of gases emanating from decomposing green algae spread over numerous beaches that killed a horse last month. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
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TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY CHLOE COUPEAU People stand on a beach covered in green algae in Grandcamp-Maisy, northwestern France, on July 9, 2014. The green algae, which plagues the beaches of Brittany, is now being found in areas which were previously untouched by the phenomenon, including Normandy and the southern Loire. 'It is early July and we've already picked up nearly 1,000 tonnes,' laments Serge Bigot, Mayor of Grandcamp-Maisy. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY CHLOE COUPEAU A picture taken on July 9, 2014 shows green algae on a beach in Grandcamp-Maisy, northwestern France. The green algae, which plagues the beaches of Brittany, is now being found in areas which were previously untouched by the phenomenon, including Normandy and the southern Loire. 'It is early July and we've already picked up nearly 1,000 tonnes,' laments Serge Bigot, Mayor of Grandcamp-Maisy. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY CHLOE COUPEAU A woman stands on a beach covered in green algae in Grandcamp-Maisy, northwestern France, on July 9, 2014. The green algae, which plagues the beaches of Brittany, is now being found in areas which were previously untouched by the phenomenon, including Normandy and the southern Loire. 'It is early July and we've already picked up nearly 1,000 tonnes,' laments Serge Bigot, Mayor of Grandcamp-Maisy. AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP
FILE - This Aug. 20, 2009 photo shows bulldozers removing algae on the beach of Hillion, near Saint Michel en Greve, Brittany, France. A court in western France has held the French state responsible for the 2009 death of a horse on a Brittany beach choked with toxic algae. The decision on Monday July 22, 2014 at an appeals court in Nantes represents a major victory for ecologists and for the horse’s owner, Vincent Petit, who nearly died himself when he and his mount were suddenly mired in muck that gave off toxic hydrogen sulfide emitted by rotting algae. (AP Photo/David Vincent, File)
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By ELAINE GANLEY

PARIS (AP) - A French court has found the state responsible for the 2009 death of a horse on a Brittany beach killed by toxic algae.

The decision by an appeals court in Nantes represents a victory for environmentalists and for the horse's owner, Vincent Petit, who nearly died himself when he and his mount were suddenly mired in muck that gave off toxic hydrogen sulfide gases emitted by rotting algae.

The court ruled Monday that France failed to sufficiently enforce national and European rules to protect water against pollution from agriculture.

Fertilizers, including natural fertilizers such as pig excrement, have caused a proliferation of algae along the northern French coast that turns into toxic black sludge when it decays. Pig farms and other agricultural activities are the backbone of the economy in the Cotes d'Armor region, where the accident occurred.

However, the court also deemed that Petit was imprudent for taking his mount onto the picturesque beach in the village of Saint-Michel-en-Greve despite a sign at the entrance warning of the danger of going near rotting algae. The court, therefore, limited the fine the state must pay Petit to 2,200 euros ($2,975).

A court is yet to rule on the cause of death of a man, Thierry Morfoisse, who died in 2009 in the region and whose job it was to empty algae bins.

Two dogs have also been killed by the algae in the area.

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