Chef du service risques DREAL NormandieCité administrative
2, rue Saint-Sever
76032 Rouen cedex
Responsable adjoint du pôle santé-environnement – responsable de l’unité départementale 76
Direction de la santé publique
Esplanade Claude Monet
2, place Jean Nouzille
14050 Caen Cedex 4
On September 26, 2019, a huge industrial fire occurred at the Lubrizol and NL Logistique sites in Rouen. The French authorities quickly organized and prescribed an exceptional series of environmental analyses, involving thousands of samplings and multiple substances. The program helped to make informed operational decisions, advise the population, and recommend appropriate actions to the professionals and inhabitants of the cities affected. This article shows how the different kinds of analyses were conducted from the fastest to the most detailed, to address the issues at each stage of the crisis and its consequences.
In the short-term, the first analysis, combined with previous theoretical models of potential fire scenarios, showed no acute toxicity at ground level; the area of potential acute toxicity at higher altitude remained limited to a small perimeter too high and too narrow to affect the population.
In the long-term, analyses were conducted in air, water, soot, soil, plant, and other agricultural samples. This article details two of these studies: one covering soils and plants, and the other drinking water. Results of all the analyses combined remained below health thresholds, or, when no such threshold existed, they remained similar to local values. Some exceptions were found, due to either local environment or close proximity to the fire (for instance, high benzene concentrations were found near the center). Finally, regarding plants, numerous incompatibilities and vulnerabilities were found in more than a hundred towns in Seine-Maritime and Hauts-de-France. The study concludes that these are linked to past pollution and do not result from the fire on September 26. This pollution is being dealt with by the French authorities.