Almost all the French can safe to drink tap water, but 2.8 million people have access only to polluted water in particular by pesticides, nitrates or lead, said a study of UFC-Que Choisir.
“The overall conclusion is very reassuring” , says consumer association which analyzed systems serving 36,600 communes of France from February 2014 to August 2016, based on data from the Ministry of Health: 95.6% of consumers benefit from water that“respects handily all regulatory limits, and this throughout the year” . But 2.8 million people, mostly residents of small rural communities, “receive improper water,” she says. It is not necessarily unfit for consumption, “it depends on the nature of the molecule, the level is exceeded and frequency” , has told AFP Olivier Andrault, Special Adviser to the UFC-Que Choisir who led the study.
Pesticides are “by far” the leading cause of non-compliance. They contaminate the water of 2 million consumers, mostly rural, in intensively farmed regions. “The molecules which are found are mainly herbicides” , such as atrazine, a herbicide “but now banned (…) particularly persistent in the environment,” says the UFC. Nitrates, in turn, pollute the water of nearly 200,000 consumers, especially in the Loiret, the Seine-et-Marne, Yonne, Aube, Marne, the Pas-de-Calais and the Somme .
Third pollution: the “bacterial contamination due to defects surveillance or dilapidated facilities” . They cover 200,000 people and primarily affect small rural mountain communes (Alps, the Massif Central, the Pyrenees). The UFC-Que Choisir also warning about the presence of “toxic components” in the pipes of accommodation: lead, copper, nickel, or vinyl chloride, “released by the old or corroded pipelines” . This pollution is poorly measured, because of “a very small number of samples” which “does not allow to know the actual exposure of consumers.”
The NGO considers this pollution “even less acceptable that the alert is given for a long time and the right remedies are still not implemented.” If tap water is almost everywhere to standard, “it’s not because agriculture would have amended its practices” but because of a “costly remediation funded 87% by consumers and only 6% by farmers “ , she says.
The association claimed that the principle “polluter pays” by increased taxation of pesticides and nitrogen fertilizers, “a national audit ” toxic components of pipelines and assistance to individuals to replace their pipes for pollution lead.
Consumers can learn about the quality of their tap water by looking at a map on the website of the UFC-Que Choisir . “One in five French does not trust tap water (…) and two in five favours bottled water” lamented the president of the association, Alain Bazot, during a telephone press conference. Yet “the water quality is largely the appointment” , he stressed. In addition, according to the association, to 0.4 euro cent per litre of tap water is 65 times cheaper than the average bottle.
The manufacture of plastic bottles generates it, 360 times more greenhouse gas. They travel an average of 300 km before arriving on our tables, and generate 150,000 tons of packaging waste annually, according to the UFC-Que Choisir.