The court has rejected the environmental summary proceedings filed by several associations and individuals against the chemical group Arkema, to obtain health studies in the case of "eternal pollutants" known as "PFAS", according to the decision communicated to AFP on Monday.

The summary judge, based on analyses by the DREAL, considered that "no non-compliance with the requirements now imposed on the operator had been found" since the 2022 and 2023 orders, according to the order issued last Thursday.

"The necessary measures to put an end to the pollution" having been taken by the prefect, "the intervention of the liberty and detention judge does not appear to be necessary," reads the decision communicated to AFP by the plaintiffs' lawyer.

'Very disappointed'

"We are very disappointed with this decision, which does not take into account the extent of the pollution or its persistence," said Jeanne Fleury, spokesperson for the environmental association Notre Affaire A Tous.

Arkema – the former chemical branch of Total that has become France's leading chemical company since its separation in 2004 – has "polluted for years", said Louise Tschanz, counsel for the plaintiffs, announcing her intention to appeal. "And since June 2023 there is no longer any non-compliance" with the requirements now imposed on the operator, "it's all about moving around, there's nothing to see," she laments.

The lawyer argues that she filed the request in "May 2023", i.e. before the last prefectural decree in June, at a time "when the non-compliance existed".

Near-indestructible PFAS

On 25 May, 10 associations (including the local branch of "Notre affaire à tous"), a trade union (FSU) and 47 individual applicants had filed a request for "environmental criminal summary proceedings" with the Lyon judicial court. Their request, sent to the JLD in October, called for a study of the health risks associated with the PFAS released by the Arkema plant in Pierre-Bénite, in the Chemical Valley, south of Lyon.

PFAS, poly- and perfluoroalkyl compounds, can be found in industrial discharges or landfills. Almost indestructible, they accumulate over time in the air, soil, river waters, food and even the human body, hence their nickname "forever" pollutants. If exposed over a long period of time, they can affect fertility or promote certain cancers, according to studies.

The judge recalled in his decision that he was "the judge of obviousness" and did not have "his own investigative power or the possibility of appointing an expert to make his decision".

  • Planet
  • Justice
  • Pollution
  • Air Pollution
  • Lyon
  • Rhone
  • Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
  • Rhône-Alpes