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Parisians threaten to poop in Seine River to protest sewage contamination ahead of Paris 2024 Summer Olympics

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The 2024 Paris Summer Olympics are just a month away, but there is still a nasty controversy brewing over one of the spots serving as a focal point for the event — the Seine River. After months of tests showing high levels of bacteria from sewage and wastewater, residents fed up with the river pollution just weeks before Olympic athletes are set to dive in are threatening to stage a mass defecation in protest.

A website has appeared using the viral hashtag #JeChieDansLaSeineLe23Juin, which translates to, "I sh*t in the Seine on June 23." A Google search for the phrase directs people to the website, represented by a "💩" emoji on the search engine. The site repeats the phrase, and aims a taunt squarely at French President Emmanuel Macron and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who have both vowed to go for a swim before the Games to prove the Seine is safe. 

"Because after putting us in sh*t it's up to them to bathe in our sh*t," the website declares. It also features a calculator that lets users input how far they live from central Paris, and then calculates when they would need to defecate in the river for the waste to end up in the heart of the capital at noon on June 23. 

Triathletes start to compete swimming in the Seine river next to the Alexandre III bridge, during a Test Event for the women's triathlon for the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, Aug. 17, 2023. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty

Local news outlet ActuParis said the protest grew out of a joke after Hidalgo and other officials pledged at the end of May to make the river swimmable in time for open water events during the Summer Games. Recent tests found it still had "alarming levels" of bacteria. According to ActuParis, a computer engineer was behind the viral protest idea, and he seems unsure how much actual action it will prompt on Sunday.

"At the beginning, the objective was to make a joke, by bouncing off this ironic hashtag," the anonymous instigator was quoted as telling the outlet. "In the end, are people really going to go sh*t in the Seine, or set up militant actions? Nothing is excluded." 

Pollution in the Seine has been a major point of contention in the run-up to the Olympics. The French government has spent nearly $1.5 billion already trying to clean the river enough to make it swimmable, even as wet weather has complicated efforts. Officials announced Friday that test results from mid-June show levels of E. coli and enterococci bacteria in the river, though Axios reported Paris region official Marc Guillaume expressed confidence the events set for the river would go forward as planned.  

In May, the Surfrider charity conducted tests that found contaminants at levels higher than are allowed by sports federations, with one reading at Paris' iconic Alexandre III bridge showing levels three times higher than the maximum permitted by triathlon and open-water swimming federations, the French news agency AFP said. Tests during the first eight days of June showed continued contamination.

View of the Seine river, with the Alexandre III bridge and the Eiffel Tower, before the Olympic Games in Paris, France, June 11, 2024. LAURE BOYER/Hans Lucas/AFP/Getty

E. coli is known to cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, pneumonia and sepsis, according to the CDC, while enterococci has been linked to meningitis and severe infections, and some strains are known to be resistant to available medications.

International Olympic Committee executive Christophe Dubi said last week that there were "no reasons to doubt" the events slated to take place in the Seine will go ahead as planned. 

"We are confident that we will swim in the Seine this summer," he said.

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