Chamonix Chokes on Air Pollution

People come from all over the world to admire the sparkling glaciers and snowy peaks of Mont-Blanc. They do not expect traffic pollution exceeding rush-hour levels on the Champs-Elysées. A two year study by the Air de l’Ain et des pays de Savoie based in Chambéry has shown that pollution levels consistently exceed European norms and could be life threatening to sufferers from respiratory illnesses.

The study was carried out from January 2002 to March 2004 in order to examine the effects on air pollution from the reopening of the Mont-Blanc tunnel following the fire in 1999. For the purposes of the report a new air monitoring station was installed in 2001 in the village of Bossons near the entrance to the Mont-Blanc tunnel on the French side.

The report has two primary conclusions. The contribution to air pollution by heavy goods vehicles is very clear. The road is also taken by 15,000 cars each day but the analysis of the pollution levels shows that it follows those periods when HGVs are passing through the tunnel.
The reopening of the tunnel to trucks has lead to increased levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2). SO2 is a colourless gas that can cause breathing problems and respiratory illness and can be fatal to asthma sufferers and people with cardiovascular diseases; it also damages crops and is a factor in acid rain. In 2004 the average level of sulphur dioxide was 44 microgrammes, the European Union has set a legal limit 40 microgrammes.

With the closure of the Frejus tunnel, situated in the Maurienne valley until September, 2005 at the earliest following a fire in which two people were killed the number of HGVs passing through the valley is set to rocket from under 1000 per day to 1500. The Frejus tunnel was carrying just under 4,000 HGVs per day before the fire. The Mont-Blanc tunnel has a maximum capacity of 5000 trucks per day. Relations between the residents of the Maurienne valley in the Savoie and Chamonix in the Haute-Savoie are somewhat frosty with some seeing this as payback time following the long closure of the Mont-Blanc tunnel. The French transport minister Gilles de Robien has called for more lorries to be moved by rail. A pilot project using the Modalohr system of low loading wagons has been operating since 2003 between Bourgneuf in France and Orbassano in Italy but has met limited use.

Posted by davidof on Saturday, 11 June, 2005 at 06:16 PM

The Frejus tunnel should fully reopen for lorry traffic on the 23rd of August. Currently lorries are only permitted in one direction at a time. The tunnel is fully open for car and motorcycle traffic. This should help to relieve Chamonix but of course does not solve the problem of heavy truck traffic in the Chamonix and Maurienne valleys.

Posted by davidof on  Sunday, 21 August, 2005  at 09:49 PM

In reply to this thread.

It’s not just the trucks causing pollution, the local marie’s in the Arve sector of the valley (Chamonix, Les Houches, Servoz, Passy) are sending out pollution warnings requesting people :

Do not do any physical excercise in the area.
Avoid lighting fires for warmth or pleasure.
Avoid using oil heating.
Drive only when neccesary and avoid using diesel cars.
Respect the reduced speed signs.
Take children with respiritory problems to see their doctor.

On top of this, all the local pharmacies in the area are out of stock of breathing apperatus due to the high demand !

In other words, tourism is killing the locals !

Posted by Tom Norris on  Thursday, 05 January, 2012  at 10:13 AM

Oh, and although this report was made in 2001, the Chamonix valley has been on a red alert warning for 8 weeks now (October 2011 - present day) !!

Not good, and irreversable at the moment due to the high amount of tourism in the valley within the winter months.

Posted by Tom Norris on  Thursday, 05 January, 2012  at 10:16 AM

Wow that’s a long time, you should post something in the forum about it

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 05 January, 2012  at 10:37 AM
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