Katia Bertaud, chief of staff and director of communication for the town hall of Tarascon, assures him: “I have lived here for twenty-five years. I never heard anyone complain about the factory. » Some of his fellow citizens will say that it is better to hear this than to be deaf or to suffer from anosmia, the loss of smell. Because, within a radius of several kilometers around this small town in the northern Bouches-du-Rhône, everyone knows the smell given off by the Fiber Excellence paper mill. According to the assessments, this one oscillates between the rotten egg, the sulfur, the fart, the cauliflower and obliges, certain days, to close the windows, the time that it dissipates. Including in Arles, 20 kilometers further south, when the mistral carries the scent. There as elsewhere, we cursed this site known throughout the region under the same name: “the smelly factory”.
Even those who have never seen it know of its existence, because of the characteristic smell. Impossible, however, not to see it when passing through the surroundings, with its high red and white striped chimney, overhanging the Avignon-Marseille railway line. As Lucien Limousin, the mayor (various right) of this city of 16,000 inhabitants, says, “it is part of our heritage”. The smell, the pollution of the air and the Rhône, the noises? Mr. Limousin finds nothing to complain about. Does the factory therefore have no faults?, he is asked after his argument in favor of the largest private employer (250 employees) in this town, where unemployment stands at 14.3%, according to the 2019 Insee census. “You journalists only write incriminating articles! », replies the mayor. In the past, when the inhabitants challenged her predecessor, Thérèse Aillaud, mayor from 1983 to 2002, she replied: “My factory doesn’t stink; she smells of sorrel! » Today, Fiber Excellence brings in 7 million euros per year to the urban community.
It was in 1951 that what was then called “Cellulose” settled on the banks of the Rhône. The wood arrives in tons to produce paper pulp. The smell quickly becomes characteristic, the populations accustomed somehow generation after generation. “For many people, it has long functioned as a kind of Proust madeleine”notes Alexandre Régnier, member of the board of directors of France Nature Environnement 13 and secretary of the environmental association Les Flamants roses du Trébon, which has been fighting for six years against this Seveso classified site.
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