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A Tale of a River: A Journey Towards a Cleaner Future

Claire An

   “The Seine. I have painted it all my life, at all hours of the day, at all times of the year, from Paris to the sea…Argenteuil, Poissy, Vétheuil, Giverny, Rouen, Le Havre.” Claude Monet spoke the truth regarding the Seine, deemed the World’s Most Romantic River. Yet, the Seine today is polluted with wastewater and litter. As the Paris 2024 Olympics approach France within the coming years, French officials share a collective goal to clean the Seine into a swimmable place for both Olympic swimmers and French locals. From the different solutions present in cleaning the Seine, the trash-pickup is ineffective compared to the plan implemented by the French government. Still, improvements to Paris’s current plan may benefit the municipal community more.

   One accessible and commonly utilized source for cleaning rivers is trash pickup technology. Due to the piling plastic within oceans and streamways, several organizations and governments have begun developing and supporting plastic trash methods. More recently, scientists detect rivers contributing trash into the ocean. The Seine is not exempt. Within the Seine, boxes of packaging float down the streams and green algae blossoming within the murky waters. Bikes and electric scooters have been found within the depth of the river. To clean and purify the Seine, innovations such as magnetic cleanups or The Interceptor, a machine from the organization The Ocean Cleanup that collects trash on the water, are clear and viable options. However, to rely on solutions that remove the more tangible items is not effective enough. One of the crucial problems within the Seine is bacteria. Microbes including e.coli and enterococci bacteria are found in the water, making it dangerous to swim. Further, wastewater and sewage pollution are issues that cannot be easily solved with the solutions present. Therefore, the trash-pickup resolution is insufficient in cleaning the Seine.


  The current solution by the Paris government underway is the construction of a new water regulation system. The 1.5 billion euro project focuses on building a water tank near the Seine river to hold the overflow of water during excess rainfall and to prevent unpurified water from entering river banks. Then, the water stored in these banks will flow into sewage treatment tanks, purifying the river water. A separate component of the project is implementing measures to reduce wastewater entering the river from homes and boats. Before the Seine cleanup, the majority of buildings and boats dumped unfiltered wastewater into the river. Yet, with more regulations imposing stricter rules of waste into proper sewage pipes and systems, the pollution in the Seine has decreased. The end goal project will create a swimmable river by the 2024 Olympics. The solution has already proved effective; some parts of the river have been tested and approved to be swim-safe. Yet, to continue and improve these efforts after the 2024 Olympics, there needs to be more social standards set in place.

   To create a more generalized and a whole-rounded solution, the construction of the Seine River requires other components to specifically reduce the cause of the problem, not only the effects. It is important to address that the Seine may return to a contaminated state after the 2024 Olympics, and that other waterways or rivers apart from the Seine may be polluted with the new plan if there is not enough action taken. Therefore, to minimize the root of the overall problem, the social and mindset of the population needs to change. One common solution is education within homes and schools to create awareness of the Seine’s pollution and importance, thus instilling a protective and cautious mindset towards the river. Other solutions include increasing regular checkups around residential areas and factories, specifically locations that are the largest contributors to the Seine’s pollution. By implementing solutions that target the wastewater problem, there will be a more systematic and long-term approach to manage the pollution within the Seine.The Seine’s pollution issue led to a wide variety of solutions. Though a trash-centered answer may not provide capability specifically for the Seine, the current solution with a more human-centered approach may be the most effective for Paris's river. The Seine has an end sight for its long-enduring goal; yet, it also serves as a testing ground for river cleanings internationally. Countries including Indonesia and India have more severe river problems that do not have clear solutions. With the Seine’s success, there is hope for the rivers of the world.

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