Can Paris Clean Up the Seine River Before the Olympics? 

During the Olympic opening ceremonies, athletes on boats will travel on the Seine River past famous monuments such as the Eiffel Tower.

This July and August, the Olympic Games will be in Paris, France. Usually, the opening ceremony for the Olympics takes place in a stadium. This year, it will take place on the Seine River. Spectators will be lined up along the banks of the river. It will be the largest opening ceremony for the Olympics ever. After the ceremony, the Seine will still play an important role in the Olympics. Several swimming races are scheduled to take place in the river. However, there is one problem. The Seine River is so polluted, nobody has been allowed to swim there for 100 years. 

Paris has a sewer system designed to remove wastewater from toilets and sinks, treat it to make it clean, and bring it back into the city’s water system. The sewer system for Paris was designed in the 1800s. It worked well for Napolean’s time. It does not work well now. When it rains heavily, it could overflow and flood Paris. So, instead, during heavy rains, Paris dumps its wastewater into the Seine. This makes the water dangerous.  

France will spend $1.5 billion to clean up the river. They are building an underground storage tank the size of 20 Olympics swimming pools underground for rainwater. It will hold water during heavy rains, so it can be released gradually into the sewer system without overflowing. After the Olympics, the public will be allowed to swim in the Seine River for the first time in a hundred years. Many are hoping this will show other cities how to make their rivers clean again.  

However, organizers face two obstacles. The first problem is that they are running out of time. They meant to hold a race in August of 2023 to test their system. The water still had too much pollution in it, including a deadly bacteria called e. coli. Paris has no backup plan if they cannot get the water clean enough in time for the Olympics.  

The second problem comes after the Olympics. People in Paris might not believe that it is safe. To help convince people, Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, has said that she will go swimming in the river. So has Emmanuel Macron, the President of France. 

What Do You Think?  Do you think it’s important for cities to have clean rivers? Why or why not? 

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