The Tefal factories may well have made Rumilly (Haute-Savoie) famous, but it is the two silos located a few hundred meters from the town’s stove factory which are the source of the glory of its inhabitants. These midnight blue and denim blue filters aren’t that massive, but they represent the end of a lot of hassle. Daily life in this industrial city located at the foot of the Alps was turned upside down in October 2022 following analyzes pointing to the presence of PFAS, chemical substances, in tap water. For three months, an innovative system has filtered these toxic particles, which are widely used in factories in this town of 15,000 inhabitants. “This is the first installation of this type in France and, to my knowledge, in Europe,” enthuses Christian Heison, in front of the Madrid water table, located to the south of the city. The former mayor with tinted glasses may have lost the municipal by-election last November, but he is not a little proud of the silos he helped to install. There remains a problem, as this ex-air force member himself admits: the solution is not long-lasting, because the activated carbons introduced into the water treatment system to capture these pollutants must be changed regularly. .
In Rumilly, not everyone shares the enthusiasm of the former councilor who assures that PFAS had disappeared from the first analyzes at the end of 2023. “The problem is that studying the water takes two to three weeks, estimates Virgile Benoit, member of Agir ensemble for Rumilly and the Albanian. By the time we have the analyses, it is possible that the activated carbon will no longer work and that the water will be contaminated again by PFAS. » The members of his collective carried out a small experiment before the introduction of this new filtration system: taking blood samples from five Rumillians to measure the level of PFOA, a substance from the PFAS family classified as “carcinogenic for humans” by the Circ. As a result, these levels are at least five times higher than the median concentration of PFOA detected in the French population*.
Despite the alert, Virgile Benoit remained faithful to local water. With the smirk of someone who knows that the situation may seem comical, he does not hesitate to suggest some. He remembers the panic caused by the detection of PFAS: “A lot of people started buying water packs, but given the studies on plastic nanoparticles in bottles, not sure that it would be better. » This tall bearded man points to another concern. A few steps from his house, the Chéran river is full of water this winter, but in summer, the watercourse is threatened by drought.
*Esteban 2019 study.
Find the person responsible
Behind his grenadine diabolo and a face displaying natural good nature, Pierre-Emmanuel Litaize is also very upbeat. The Europe Écologie-Les Verts section of the Annecy basin to which he belongs chose to file a complaint against X in mid-January, in the hope of obtaining a response. “It is an approach which allows us to look for the historical culprits of this pollution in a region where old tanneries as well as the Salomon and Tefal factories have used a lot of PFAS in the past,” recalls Pierre-Emmanuel Litaize, EELV member. For the moment, we have treated the consequences of this pollution by purifying the water, but without treating the causes. »
While waiting to one day apply the polluter-pays principle, the amount of the investment to treat water with activated carbon (1.2 million euros) was covered by the public authorities. It will only be from 2026 that a European standard will impose a maximum concentration of PFAS in water and the bill could be hefty for communities that will not be in compliance.