New swimming spot on Paris canal temporarily closed due to pollution – The Guardian

A new public swimming area on Paris’s Canal de l’Ourcq reopened on Tuesday after it was temporarily closed due to higher than normal bacteria levels after weekend rains.

The floating structure that has been put in place for the summer has allowed Parisians to legally swim in the canal at La Villette for the first time in decades. It proved very popular when it opened earlier this month and was hailed by the Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo as the beginning of a “dream” to launch open swimming areas in other city waterways, including on the River Seine in 2024 if Paris wins its bid to host the Olympics that year.

But the swimming area was briefly closed on Monday after a routine test on Sunday night found higher than normal levels of enterococci, a bacteria found in faecal matter. The city of Paris tweeted that the pool was closed because the water quality was “unsatisfactory”.

The pool reopened again on Tuesday morning after subsequent tests found the water quality was back to normal, Paris authorities said.

It is thought that heavy rainfall at the weekend had led to the higher than normal readings of bacteria levels.

Tests are regularly made at a point upstream from the swimming area to ensure the water quality is within guidelines. After a 10-year effort by the city to clean up the canal water, regular tests had consistently come back with satisfactory results showing the bacteria levels were far below accepted norms. But authorities said they would keep testing regularly during the swimming season.

A spokeswoman for the Paris authorities said: “Tests carried out on Monday night showed that the levels are now back in line with the requirements, so we have reopened the pool. It’s nothing serious. The water quality is good.”

The floating pool structure, which can take up to 300 swimmers at a time, proved an instant hit after opening earlier this month and when Paris temperatures rose well above 30C, hundreds of people queued each day to get in.

Inaugurating the facility, the Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo had called it “a dream come true”. Hidalgo has set a target of 2024, when the city hopes to host the summer Olympics, to have swimming areas at designated points along the Seine.

After decades in which casual bathing in Paris’s river and canals has been banned for many reasons, including strong currents, fears of bacteria and sewage pollution, authorities are moving to give swimmers more access to the murky waters that were once off limits.

In recent years, lone swimmers could regularly be seen taking dips in the canal at La Villette of their own accord, despite the “no swimming signs”.

The official pool structure opened by the city hall at La Villette for the summer as part of the festival, “Paris Plages”, is the first time in many years that swimmers can legally swim there.

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