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Policy: Environment & Energy

Court rules France responsible in toxic algae case

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PARIS (AP) — A French court has found the state responsible for the 2009 death of a horse on a Brittany beach killed by toxic algae.

The decision by an appeals court in Nantes represents a victory for environmentalists and for the horse's owner, Vincent Petit, who nearly died himself when he and his mount were suddenly mired in muck that gave off toxic hydrogen sulfide gases emitted by rotting algae.

The court ruled Monday that France failed to sufficiently enforce national and European rules to protect water against pollution from agriculture.

Fertilizers, including natural fertilizers such as pig excrement, have caused a proliferation of algae along the northern French coast that turns into toxic black sludge when it decays. Pig farms and other agricultural activities are the backbone of the economy in the Cotes d'Armor region, where the accident occurred.

However, the court also deemed that Petit was imprudent for taking his mount onto the picturesque beach in the village of Saint-Michel-en-Greve despite a sign at the entrance warning of the danger of going near rotting algae. The court, therefore, limited the fine the state must pay Petit to 2,200 euros ($2,975).

A court is yet to rule on the cause of death of a man, Thierry Morfoisse, who died in 2009 in the region and whose job it was to empty algae bins.

Two dogs have also been killed by the algae in the area.

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