It took the sudden death of a horse and the illness of its rider at the end of July for the harmful nature of green algae to become a subject of national debate. A report from Ineris, requested by Chantal Jouanno, the secretary of state for ecology, a few days after the event, confirms that “occasionally the gas emitted by sediments containing decomposing green algae can be dangerous, and exposure should be limited.” The report recommends identification of danger zones, equipping people collecting algae with portable detection devices, and a survey of the risks throughout the chain, from collection to treatment (spreading, composting...).
Locally, the prime-ministerial visit to Brittany considerably reassured local councillors who have been managing the invasion of algae alone for years. The region and the departments ran a programme to combat algae called Prolittoral from 2002-2006, in collaboration with the Loire-Bretagne Water Agency. The survey estimated that 60,000 m3 of algae are collected in Britanny every year, mainly on the Côtes d’Armor and in Finistère. 56% of the algae are used as fertiliser on agricultural land, 26% composted, and 18% stored.
Now, the government is helping not just technically, but financially as well; François Fillon announced that the state would pay for cleaning of the worst-affected beaches. He also announced an experimental collection of algae at sea at the end of the winter, and research, to be carried out in conjunction with local authorities and partners, into new methods of combatting the proliferation of algae in the bays of Lannion and Saint-Brieuc. (Environnement Magazine, France, Click here).