According to Eau and Rivieres de Bretagne, local towns have spent $1.42 billion over the past 30 years to collect, stock and eliminate the seaweed. But the seaweed continued to invade Brittany beaches over the years and fed up with the failure of the French government to find solutions to this problem, 400 local residents organized a demonstration on a beach a few weeks ago.
And the protestors may have been heard.
On Thursday, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon cut short his vacation and announced in Saint-Michel-en-Grève, where the horse died, that the government would take care of the cleaning up of Brittany beaches invaded by the seaweed. "These pollutions present a danger for the health. A study has showed the toxicity of these green seaweed in a certain concentration," Fillon told reporters.
This study ordered by the Ministry of Ecology indeed revealed yesterday that the gas coming from seaweed in decay "can be deadly" in case of a particularly important concentration. "Measures carried out on the Saint-Michel-en-Grève site … have showed here and there that gas coming from sediments containing notably seaweed in decay could be dangerous," the report from the National Institute for Environmental protection and Industrial Risks Management said. The report stresses that hydrogen sulphide is toxic by inhalation. It reveals that, at 1,000 ppm (parts per million), a value which was found in some parts of the beach where the horse died, "it can be deadly in a few minutes."
Prime Minister Fillon also said that a government mission would be put together within the next three months "a plan of action to fight against the proliferation of green seaweed and propose efficient collecting solutions and protection of the population."
"We're going to experiment the collection of seaweed at the end of winter, at sea, in order, we hope, to avoid the proliferations like the one we've encountered this summer."
"We have made extremely precise commitments with farmers concerning the significant reduction of farm inputs. These objectives will be held," he added.
But environmentalist Piquot brushed off Fillon's remarks, saying, "It's been 25 years that I hear that measures are going to be taken and it's been 25 years the situation has not improved. Frankly, I'm not particularly optimistic."