The administrative court of appeal of Douai (North) on Thursday, May 23, ordered the State to compensate residents living near the Metaleurop factory due to deficiencies in the control of pollution, particularly lead, that this factory caused. .

The court considered that the prefectural decisions “supervising the releases of atmospheric pollutants from the Metaleurop Nord factory were insufficient,” the court wrote in a press release.

At first instance, the administrative court of Lille had rejected the request for compensation from residents of the former foundry, located in Noyelles-Godault (Pas-de-Calais), finding that “the property damage and anxiety invoked” were not demonstrated.

On appeal, the court, conversely, decided to compensate the damage suffered by around fifty local residents, considering that the State should have done more to limit polluting discharges.

A “historic” ruling for the plaintiffs’ lawyer

“Since the 1950s and as environmental concerns took hold in the public debate, the State has gradually tightened its control over atmospheric emissions from the factory,” she notes in the press release. “Given, however, the already present pollution accumulated since the beginning of the century and the continued release of pollutants, it should have required a more significant reduction in these pollutants (…), even if it meant anticipating national standards. »

The State is ordered to compensate the fifty applicants “for the loss of market value of their property and their disturbance of enjoyment”.

On the other hand, he is not ordered to decontaminate the applicants’ land, the samples taken having “not revealed locally higher levels of heavy metals than for the general population”.

For David Deharbe, lawyer for the Hénin-Carvin agglomeration and local residents, this judgment, which concerns “one of the most emblematic cases in terms of pollution in France”, is “historic”. According to him, the houses concerned lost approximately 20% of their value due to the presence of lead and cadium, the total amount of damage approaching 1.2 million euros.

Established in 1894, the Metaleurop factory released tons of heavy metals into the air for decades. When it closed in 2003, the area was considered the most polluted in France.

Eight cases of lead poisoning and seventy-five elevated lead impregnations were detected in children following screening launched by the regional health agency in 2022.