Will the Seine River be safe to swim in for the Paris Olympics?

Thomas Padilla/AP

The Seine River is supposed to host swimming events for the Paris Olympics this summer.

However, less than two months before the games, a local government bulletin released on June 21 reported a degradation of water quality, and increases in E. coli on June 11, 15, and 16. The report indicates the increases were due to rain discharges upstream.

President Emmanuel Macron and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo were set to swim in the Seine River to prove its safety last weekend, but that was postponed.

Swimming in the Seine has been banned for about 100 years due to pollution from factory wastewater, sewage, and rain runoff.

The government has spent nearly $1.5 billion trying to clean it up by fixing old pipes, limiting the amount of untreated wastewater going into the river, and building a wastewater and rainwater storage basin.

Water tests show it’s still potentially not clean enough to swim in.

The Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit environmental group, wrote an open letter earlier this year questioning the safety for athletes and asking officials for a possible plan B in case the Seine remains at dangerous bacteria levels.

Civilians against the funding for cleanup originally planned to defecate in the river on the same day politicians wanted to swim to prove the water was safe. The protest movement gained traction through a hashtag online. However, with the postponement of the swim, not much is known about the state of the protest.

The Paris Olympics kick off on July 26.

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