After more than fifteen years of procedure, residents of an incinerator in Seine-et-Marne who spewed fumes overloaded with dioxins won a "historic" victory: the agglomeration of Melun, operator, was sentenced Tuesday to a heavy fine for "endangering others."
"This is the first time that victims get compensation for the damage related to the malfunction of an incinerator," said the former Minister of the Environment Corinne Lepage, who defended these residents with Pierre-Olivier Sur
Both welcomed a "historic" decision.
Created in 1974, this household waste incinerator located in Vaux-le-Pénil spat out above gardens and roofs fumes overloaded with dioxins, very toxic organic pollutants. Impossible to modernize, it had closed in June 2002.
Pascale Coffinet, mayor of the village of Maincy who was under the prevailing winds of the installation, had complained in 2003, alarmed by the results of analyzes that she had been practiced on his own blood and on the eggs of his chickens – the human contaminations are mainly through the diet (milks, eggs …).
Some 165 residents had followed suit. Among them, a dozen have died of cancer in recent years, including "non-Hodgkin's lymphoma", which develop from cells of the lymphatic system, according to the civil parties. A dozen others suffer.
The agglomeration had finally appeared before the Paris Criminal Court in November and December for "endangering others" over a limited period of January 1999 – the date of a first prefectural order enjoining the operator to bring himself up to standard – June 2002, date of closure of the facility.
Tuesday, the judges sentenced her to a fine of 250,000 euros, of which 50,000 suspended, for this offense as well as for "continuation of a non-compliant installation", the prefecture having unsuccessfully put the operator in default to bring the incinerator up to standard by March 2002.
A "victory" for the association of the residents of this poisonous plume, while the prosecutor had asked, in December, a fine for the only crime of "continuation of a non-compliant installation", without pronouncing on the "endangerment."
– Paradise lost –  On the contrary, the court held that the "risk Immediate death or injury resulting from the emission of pollutants "was established, recalling that many studies had concluded that" residing under an incinerator plume would increase the risk of certain cancers by 20% ", and that this emission of pollutants was "deliberate"
Surveys in March 2002 had revealed dioxin levels more than 2,200 times higher than the standard.
About thirty residents present at the tribunal accepted the judgment in calm. Many had described at the hearing a lost paradise, a country dream broken by illness or the anxiety of becoming sick.
"Science (now) needs to make progress to more accurately establish the causal link "between dioxins and cancers, said Ms. Coffinet, president of the association of victims. Otherwise, the agglomeration was not prosecuted for involuntary homicides.
The agglomeration will have to pay thousands of euros of damages – in particular 15.000 euros to the commune of Maincy for its "environmental damage", 500 euros per month of exposure between 1999 and 2002 to residents affected by the "risk" and, "very unusual sum", a total of 82,000 euros in legal costs for residents.
His lawyer, Pierre Chaigne, n
He had argued in the course of the trial that the agglomeration could not be prosecuted for facts prior to January 2002, when it replaced an inter-communal syndicate.
The court however, that under an amnesty law of 2002, the agglomeration could "possibly" be amnestied for part of the "endangerment" facts once the fine has been paid and the final conviction.