Aprochim: The Countryside Factory

4 Apr 2011

Following the alert at the beginning of 2011 on the passing of the health threshold by PCBs and dioxins in a sample of milk, the investigation broadens to a perimeter of 3 km around Aprochim, placing today under total or partial isolation the livestock of 8 agricultural farms at Grez-en-Bouère and at Bouère in the Mayenne region. The quasi-totality of the investigation concerns the meat and the fat from meat. For the milk, the situation is fluctuating and to this day the commercialization of the production of only one farm is suspended. The chicken factory farms are not touched, but the official report must be consolidated when the chickens are liberated from their cages in the springtime. On the other hand, the diligent research by the Regional Agency of Health shows that eggs in domestic backyards contain PCB and dioxin levels superior to the national average. The geographic logic of the contamination designates Aprochim as principally responsible. Aprochim is one of the accredited installations in France for the decontamination of transformers and metallic masses contaminated by PCBs. It is operational since 1990 and has treated more than 200,000 tons of contaminated material. A neighboring business of Aprochim is susceptible to release PCBs and dioxins into the atmosphere; specialising in paint stripping of metallic items, it is in financial trouble and does not have sufficient funds to conduct an analysis of its atmospheric emissions.

In January 2011, Aprochim reduced its activities by 50%, conforming to a prefectural mandate urgently put forward and undertook corrective measures to reduce the diffuse emissions. A hamlet situated in proximity to Aprochim and in the path of dominant winds is particularly exposed. It is in this hamlet that the rates are the highest for bovine meat as well as for the eggs of domesticated hen houses are paid. It could be a question of atmospheric cross-contamination and by ingestion of contaminated water. Watering practices are noted in this “worst case scenario” at the convergence of the streams and rivers receiving the treated runoff from Aprochim. The contamination of eggs could be aggravated there by domestic boilers. In effect, domestic sources can create localized concentrations of dioxins in the soil.

Agricultural experts and veterinarians mandated by the minister of agriculture having already worked on the Redon case and on Saint Cyprian are ready to get down to the job to refine the investigation, to plan, if necessary, their geographic extension and to elaborate, farm by farm, practical plans for livestock susceptible to lead to the decrease in contamination. When this thorough study has been concluded, the degree of the gravity of the contamination will be established.

Robin des Bois, a member of the Local Commission for Information, wishes from public services information that must be more open, formalized, and progressive, in particular on the locations of impacted farms, on the measures to take before the consumption of vegetables, and on the eventual health risks of them. On the environmental map, a better understanding of the state of subterranean waters and the state of the Taude River is requested.

No written document has been distributed to the last meeting of the Local Commission for Information and this gap participates to the propagation of rumors and worries the population. A dialog between the agricultural professionals, the Chamber of Agriculture, the public, and Aprochim must occur without delay; it is surprising to note that these days a herd of cows is peacefully in pasture upon a suspected plot of land, just across from the PCB factory.


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