Home - Themes - Policing activities - Improve organisation of territorial inspections


    -Noël Mathieu \ Loire-Bretagne Water agency
    "In the Loire-Bretagne basin, agricultural nonpoint-source pollution (pesticides, nitrates) are a major concern, particularly in Brittany with the green algae. Serious efforts are now being made via the fourth Nitrate plan and we hope to avoid European litigation..."

    -Jean Launay \ CNE
    "France is one of the few countries to have set very demanding targets for water status. To meet those objectives and avoid EU litigation, we must achieve good results throughout the country, which requires an effort by all local stakeholders..."

Improve organisation of territorial inspections

In its efforts to reduce damage to aquatic environments and maintain the good ecological status of water, Onema carried out almost 23 000 inspections in the field in 2012. Over the year, the agency continued to develop the tools required to progress in supporting and advising State services via an inspection strategy targeting the priority issues in each region.

To meet the objectives set by the WFD, the inspection policy at Onema must: • enforce regulations concerning water usage and the preservation of aquatic environments; • report any observed offences; • evaluate any damage caused to the environment and propose corrective measures; • launch any necessary procedures (administrative penalties, criminal proceedings, etc.).




Almost 23 000 inspections with a 63% compliance rate

In 2012, 650 Onema personnel carried out 22 932 inspections in the field, of which 94% were in the framework of the inter-agency inspection programme. Over 90% of the inspections addressed water and aquatic-environment issues, 5% poaching offences (eels and glass eels) and 2% other environmental issues. Private persons were targeted by 29% of the inspections, farmers by 27%, local governments by 24%, industrial companies by 10% and other sectors by 10%. On average, 63% of inspections did not reveal offences, up slightly over 2011 (59.5%). Of the 5 618 offences noted, 91% constituted serious offences or misdemeanours causing considerable damage. Following an agreement with the State prosecutors, inspections revealing offences result in citations or reports being filed in only 54% of the cases.

A joint inspection strategy

Onema local offices carry out their water-police inspections in the framework of the inspection policy set up by the inter-agency water groups and approved by both the Prefects and the State prosecutors. The policy is drafted in line with the inter-agency departmental inspection programme. The inspection programme for each department targets the major environmental issues in the area, depending on the objectives set in terms of restoring or maintaining environmental quality. The programme is based on risk analysis targeting types of activity requiring inspections in each area, depending on various criteria (priority issues, specific pressures, etc.). The programme also includes a post-inspection strategy to guide procedures if an offence is noted and to organise processing of citations and reports in conjunction with the State prosecutors. In 2012, virtually all French departments has inspection programmes and Onema made considerable efforts to assist the local State

Contact :

Pesticide inspections in the Maine-et-Loire department

In Maine-et-Loire, the spreading of pesticides along ditches and rivers has been forbidden since June 2010. There are significant public-health issues in this highly agricultural department, where almost 100 drinking-water abstractions are located along rivers. Inspections were run by the Onema Maine-et-Loire local office in a number of steps, validated by the Prefect and the State prosecutor via the inspection programme. To improve awareness of the new regulation, letters were sent to the Chamber of agriculture, to the two agricultural cooperatives and to the departmental president of the mayor’s association. The first inspections were carried out at pesticide points of sale to check that the necessary information was correctly displayed. Out of 66 stores, 39 did not comply with the regulation. They received an oral warning and a copy of the regulation. The merchants in fact knew almost nothing about the products sold and the applicable regulations. Subsequently, inspections in the field resulted in 20 citations and 103 offence reports, notably concerning the acts of individuals to whom a copy of the regulation was given.

The Bourgogne Franche Comté regional office developed, in collaboration with the Bourgogne regional environmental agency, a tool to map all useful data, including the status of water bodies, deadlines, WFD issues, etc. It also assists in drafting inspection documents and in setting territorial priorities for the inspection programme. The map above shows the inspections carried out by Onema and the subsequent action taken in the Nièvre department.

Contact :

Special meeting on European litigation procedures

For approximately ten years, the EU has made efforts to check the implementation of its directives and no longer hesitates to initiate litigation and have the Member States sentenced to heavy fines. The Ecology ministry, with Onema, the Water agencies and IOWater, organised a national meeting on «Correct application of European law in the water field», in Paris in October 2012. Over 250 people participated in the debates, representing local State services and public agencies responsible for the application of national laws implementing European directives for water and aquatic environments. The meeting provided information on litigation procedures and alerted people to the financial issues, reviewed litigation initiated against France (urban wastewater, nitrates) and drew a number of lessons from the first hydrographic-management plan. State services in turn informed on how they collectively structure their work and on the action plans that must be developed to ensure correct WFD implementation.

Contact :