AUTHORITIES in Biarritz have been forced to defend their bathing and waste disposal measures, after a picture of sewage and rain water pouring into the sea was posted online.
Several such evacuations have already taken place during June, but the presence of surfers in the background of the photo caused particular concern.
Bathers have been ordered out of the water while pollution levels remain high.
The assistant director general of services Christophe Landrin said: “These are lifeguards who are supposed to make sure people get out of the water in case of pollution and evacuations. In this case they were doubtless caught out of time.”
He said that the town’s water treatment facility had its limits, but allowed for the treatment of sewage and rain water back into the system – as long as it was not full.
Heavy amount of rainfall threaten to overload the whole system, so evacuations are necessary.
Mr Landrin added: “We’re not in the records of June, where we recorded one year of rainfall in the space of one month, but these last few days the rains have come in brief but intense periods. Added to this, the stormwater reservoirs by la Grande Plage are full and we have to open the spillways when the system is put under pressure.
“It’s not perfect, but since 1994 the system has prevented flooding in underground areas, basements and homes.”
The town’s mayor Didier Borotra told Sud Ouest newspaper: “The local authority would never allow bathing where the analysis, carried out daily by la Lyonnaise des eaux and its laboratory Rivages Pro Tech for the seven beaches at Biarritz, revealed levels of pollution above that which is authorised.”