Five months after the gigantic fire which ravaged the Lubrizol factory in Rouen, the group was indicted for its responsibility in the environmental damage caused by the disaster, the origin of which remains unknown.
Lubrizol France was indicted Monday for “spillage of harmful substances” and for shortcomings in the operation of its factory having caused “serious damage” to the environment, announced Thursday the prosecutor of the Republic of Paris Remy Heitz in a press release.
A total of 9,505 tonnes of chemicals had burned in the fire on September 26, which had caused a cloud of black smoke, 22 km long.
The company is accused of “not having taken all measures to prevent the significant spread of the fire and the environmental damage which resulted from it,” said a source familiar with the matter.
“This status will allow Lubrizol to exercise all of its defenses in order to demonstrate that the company has fully complied with its obligations,” the group reacted at the end of the day in a press release.
“Precise answers have been given to firmly challenge the various points raised by the inspection report drawn up (by the state services) after the fire,” he said.
“This is very, very good news”, declared for his part to AFP Olivier Blond, president of Rouen Respire, an association for the defense of victims, saying that this proves that the judge had “taken seriously” the multiple complaints filed in this case.
“The Lubrizol factory was inspected many times before the disaster, they never saw anything significant, and it is the investigation that gradually uncovers all of these elements that should have been discovered before the disaster “, he also observed.
This indictment comes within the framework of the judicial investigation opened on October 29 to shed light on the causes and the circumstances of the fire, and which was extended in December to possible breaches of security.
The Paris public prosecutor’s office had noted on the Rouen site “an insufficient network of gutters and a containment device that had not made it possible to collect all of the inflamed tablecloth” and the absence of “fire detection device on the premises of outside storage “located near the two buildings that burned.
The company belonging to the American billionaire Warren Buffett is also suspected of not having planned “sufficient means in water flow to fight effectively against the fire” and of “not having studied the domino effects” of a sinister potential on neighboring sites, classified Seveso.
For its part, the Normandie Logistique company, whose warehouses adjoining the Lubrizol factory were destroyed by the incident, was placed on Wednesday under the intermediate status of an assisted witness.
– “Huge cauldron” –
On October 23 before the deputies, Jean-Yves LaSalle, director of the fire department of Seine-Maritime, had explained to have run out of water on September 26 in the face of “an immense cauldron”, an “extraordinary fire” of “3 hectares of products flammable “on the Lubrizol site, and” 7,000 m2 on the neighboring factory “.
In his press release, the prosecutor also points out that the investigations have so far failed to “determine the causes of the fire or locate its origin”.
In addition to the judicial investigation, political power seeks to improve the response to risks in this area.
Annual inspections of classified sites will increase by 50% by 2022 according to a government action plan released in mid-February by the Minister of Ecological and Inclusive Transition Elisabeth Borne.
The deputies who participated in a parliamentary mission on this fire proposed to them to increase the sanctions against the polluters, to organize exercises of the evacuation of the population and to increase the manpower of the factory inspectors.
A commission of inquiry in the Senate must for its part-deliver its conclusions in early April.