The food giant Nestlé is being accused of polluting a local river in the region of Ardennes in the east of France, where a local fishing federation has filed a legal complaint after finding tons of dead fish in the river. It will take 10 years to get the fish levels back to normal, they argue.
The fishing federation of Ardennes said they found scores of dead fish in the Aisne river last weekend close to a Nestlé factory, accusing the company of breaking the local environmental code. In an initial inspection, the local prefecture said the deaths were due to lower oxygen levels in the water.
“We have lodged a complaint against Nestlé France for pollution and violation of article 432.2 of the environmental code,” said Michel Adam, president of the Ardennes Fishing Federation. He said the damage amounted to “several thousand euros” and that “everything died in an area 7 kilometers long and 30 meters wide.”
Members of the federation have already recovered three tons of dead fish but many more are left. They estimated that 14 species have been affected, including protected ones such as eels and lamprey, and the effects will spread up and down the food chain. For Adam, who has been involved with the federation for 40 years, pollution of this magnitude has never been registered in the area.
Voluntary fishermen, locals and firefighters have been working with the federation to collect the dead fish and evacuate the remaining ones. All water activities in the area have been suspended until further notice. Meanwhile, the police are analyzing the water for the presence of chemicals or bacteria.
Nestle has a 47,000 square-kilometer factory in the area of Challerange, where it produces powdered milk since 1947. The company released a statement confirming there was a spill of “biological sludge” bur claimed it didn’t contain chemical products, coming from its filtering station.
“As soon as we learned of the report on Sunday, we immediately stopped production and put an end to the spill,” factory director Tony do Rio said in a statement. “This spill was a one-off [and lasted] less than three hours on Sunday evening,” he said, adding that activity at the factory had been stopped for a few days.
The region of Ardennes is well known around the world for its green and eco-tourism, including impressive forests, rivers and lakes. Tourists visit it every year for outdoor leisure activities, such as the Ardennes forest, the Trans-Ardennes Greenway, and the lakes of Bairon and Les Vieilles-Forges.
Nestle is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company. According to Wikipedia, their products include baby food, bottled water, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, frozen food, pet foods, and snacks. Twenty-nine of their brands have sales of over $1 billion a year and have over 8,000 brands. Nestle is no stranger to controversy, being accused of anything from pollution to child labor in the past.