Dairy giant Lactalis accused of polluting French rivers
Lactalis, a large dairy company in France, is accused of polluting the country’s rivers over the past decade. The news was revealed last month by investigative journalists of the online platform Disclose. Journalists Mathias Destal, Marianne Kerfriden, Inès Léraud and Geoffrey Livolsi discovered 38 of the company’s production sites in France breached environmental regulations regularly.
According to the Disclose-report pollution was often caused by the release of milk-derivatives and cleaning chemicals into the French rivers. In large volumes these discharges can be deadly to aquatic life. In several case the water temperature of the discharged effluent was too high. On many locations the discharges of the industrial sites of Lactalis resulted in death fish. The rivers Loire, Véronne, Seiche and Isère were all affected by pollution of the dairy giant.
“The information we have been able to gather reveals a huge environmental pollution scandal”, stated Geoffrey Livolsi of Disclose. “The frequency of the pollution and the number of industrial sites concerned, raises serious questions about the group’s ability to follow environmental regulations. At some sites Lactalis ignored administration’s warnings by not initiating the required compliance work. Lactalis was also frustrating authorities while they were controlling the plants.
Disclose investigated the activities of 60 of 70 production sites. From these sites 38 of them failed to comply with the regulations of the country’s environmental code between 2010 and today. According to the journalists many cases of non-compliance occurred in the last couple of years. Disclose claims to have obtained and analysed hundreds of documents and data from previous court cases. In most cases the pollution was identified by French environmental officials. In the report evidence is also found via photographs and videos or from independent water experts.
Lactalis describes itself as the worldwide leader in the dairy industry. It owns brands all over the world and employs around 80. 000 people in 94 countries, with a turnover of 18.5 billion euros. One of the most famous brands is President cheese. In a statement to the Guardian, the company declared: “Lactalis Group’s approach to social and environmental responsibility has intensified over several years, and significant resources are allocated to this continuous improvement process. The company pointed out that the regulations do permit ‘one-off overruns, and these do not necessarily imply that pollution has occurred’.
The Lactalis Group said to acknowledge the existence of temporary non-compliances and they say to have implemented an ambitious investment plan so that non-compliances do not happen again. According to Disclose Lactalis received millions of euros from the local water authorities to improve their Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTP’s).