If you stroll through Paris on a warm summer day, you’ll likely see groups of sunbathers and picnickers lounging near the Seine, but you probably won’t see anyone swimming. Waste management and pollution issues have made the river too dirty to swim in, but that may change thanks to a new city program.
Ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics in the city, Paris officials have launched plans to build a subterranean water tank to prevent sewage from spilling into the river during heavy rains. Located under a public garden near the Left Bank’s Gare D’Austerlitz, the tank will prevent the discharge of over two million cubic meters of contaminated water which finds its way into the river during large storms.
Although the Seine is still too dirty to swim in, it has come a long way since the 1990s, when contamination levels were 10 times higher. Mayor Jacques Chirac made a commitment to clean up the river in 1988 and water management projects have already helped revitalize fish populations in the river and made it possible to open swimming facilities in the sheltered Canal Saint Martin, which runs into the Seine.