Sudden death of dogs sparks toxic water fears in southern France

It has led to an emergency ban on swimming in or drinking from a river in Bordeaux

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The death of two dogs this weekend at a park in Blanquefort, near Bordeaux, has led to fears over the safety of the water in the area.

They died in quick succession on Saturday (July 8), after swimming in the waters surrounding the Majolan park in the town.

It prompted local authorities to put an emergency ban on swimming in or drinking from the Jalle river. It applies to all communes that border the watercourse.

Further precautionary measures led to the ban of hunting (to protect dogs aiding hunters) fishing or eating fish from the waters of four communes in the greater Bordeaux area.

The Gironde prefecture said: “The offering for sale, sale, purchase, transport or peddling of game and fish species that have been taken from the natural environment”, is also prohibited until further notice in the area.

Although not confirmed, the death of the dogs could be “linked to the presence of cyanobacteria”, in the water, said the Gironde prefecture after the measures were announced.

‘Sudden’ death of dogs caused concern

The four departments affected by the wider hunting and fishing ban – Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, Le Haillan, Le Taillan-Médoc and Eysines – all also border the Jalle river running to the north of Bordeaux.

The two dogs, both belonging to the same family, were swimming in a pond in the Majolan park before their “rapid and sudden” death, said the Gironde prefecture.

The speed at which they died led to fears that the water in the area could be infected with cyanobacteria – which is extremely dangerous to animals and humans.

Quickly after the death of the animals, workers from the Office français de la biodiversité, the Régie de l'eau Bordeaux Métropole and the Société d'assainissement de Bordeaux Métropole were all called out to the location.

They ran analyses of the water, which will be available on Tuesday (July 11) and provide evidence of the presence of any harmful bacteria in the water.

In the meantime, all of the activities mentioned above will be banned until at least then, and potentially further depending on the results.

The bans were quickly set up by Blanquefort’s mairie –even though there are no indications that the water is the direct cause of the animal’s deaths – as a precaution.

Another theory is the animals could have ingested a toxic algae present in the water.

Residents, market stall owners and gardeners – who use water from the river to irrigate crops or keep produce fresh at local markets – will hope the ban is quickly lifted, before causing direct economic damage to the municipalities.

The prefecture said the ban “aims to prevent bacteria from entering the food chain,” before causing a wider health crisis.

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