Marine effluent discharge: Interview with François Bland

Director of Calanques National Park
Published in the dossier of December 2020

François Bland, Director of Calanques National Park

François Bland, Directeur du parc national des calanques

After years of discord about marine discharges, are you now entirely satisfied with the solutions implemented?

François Bland: It is true that Alteo’s activity has always crystallized tensions and questions regarding the impact of marine discharge on pollution and human health. Calanques National Park is a new regional stakeholder and since its creation has been part of the history of major industrial pollution linked to waste disposal by the Gardanne alumina plant. In 2014, its Board of Directors imposed a drastic reduction in pollution and decreed that the plant’s discharge at the heart of the national park’s marine area should be made compliant within six years. This goal has now been met and tensions have relatively eased. The results are therefore unquestionably encouraging. All the same, the National Park continues to strive for strong, rapid progress. The treatment plant installed by Veolia on Alteo’s site proves that industry can adapt, and this type of integrated, high-performance and comprehensive solution could be applied elsewhere.

How does this industrial wastewater biological treatment unit guarantee an essential activity for the local economy, while protecting Calanques National Park’s environmental heritage?

F.B.: First of all, it shows that a protected area can be part of a major region, taking into account its history and economic life. By avoiding positioning itself ‘as a matter of principle’ against any discharges — which would have meant closing the Gardanne site, the National Park showed that its action took socio-ecological interdependencies into account, quickly leaning toward a zero pollutant discharge solution. The economy and the ecology are not in opposition and we must welcome manufacturers’ efforts to adapt their facilities, without calling into question their performance, when considering the marine environment.

Do you think that the Alteo-Veolia project can be duplicated?

F.B.: I think that Alteo’s initiative can become a benchmark both in terms of the approach and developing the techniques. The National Park’s context allowed things to evolve quickly. It made it essential to research and implement the best techniques available, which can now be exported to plants treating the same types of ore. Calanques National Park’s long-term goals?
Continuing to work with Alteo, why not aim for zero marine discharge by pairing alumina production with recycling water in the plant...