Alteo inaugurates an installation in Gardanne allowing it to comply with environmental standards.


C. Delabroy / 20 Minutes

  • The battle on the legal front concerning the quality of Alteo's liquid discharges in the sea ended with the inauguration, this Friday, of its new biological treatment unit.

  • The Gardanne specialty alumina production plant is now up to standards on all environmental parameters.

  • The future remains uncertain for the plant, however, faced with legal reorganization proceedings and the renewal of the operating license for the Mange-Garri storage site.

It has been there, the object of all expectations for several years.

From the outside, the new biological treatment unit for liquid discharges at the Alteo de Gardanne plant in the Calanques National Park could look like any urban wastewater treatment plant.

This first impression was quickly corrected by Olivier Campos, responsible for Bouches-du-Rhône at Veolia Water: “This is the first time that we have treated this type of effluent in the world, and with space constraints on a site. industrial.

The structure, very compact, thus occupies a very small floor space despite two large black tanks.

With this unit, inaugurated this Friday, the specialty alumina plant is finally 100% up to environmental standards for its discharges into the sea. Last year, a first treatment unit, this time using CO2, enabled it to purify its residual water of all metals.

It remained to treat the organic matter, that is to say the famous parameters COD and BOD5 for which Alteo tried to obtain in court a delay from the State to comply with the regulations.

14 months of work

The technique ?

“The heart of the process is biological,” continues Anne-Laure Galmel, project manager at Veolia Water.

We reproduced the degradation that takes place in the natural environment with biomass, which will consume organic matter.

"The treated water undergoes a final filtration step which eliminates the last suspended matter which, according to Veolia," is a final barrier against all types of pollution ".

All of this required two years of experimentation and 14 months of work, for an investment of 7 million euros, 30% of which is subsidized by the Water Agency.

“It's our showcase, it proves our know-how to our future buyers,” smiles Bruno Arnoux, secretary of the company's social and economic committee.

It is always a prosecution when we talk about Alteo, we have to manage to change this image.

“This inauguration comes in fact in the midst of legal reorganization for the company, which is looking for a buyer for the site.

"Alteo needs to have as much support to save its activity and maintain employment as there has been pressure to reduce our environmental footprint", tackle Frédéric Ramé, president of Alteo.

The Mange-Garri challenge

Regarding the environment, however, all eyes are now on the Mange-Garri “red mud” storage site, a large space in the pine forest in Bouc-Bel-Air, near Gardanne.

The prefectural authorization to operate expires next June.

"The challenge today is to get out of this wave of judicial reorganization from above and obtain the operating license for Mange-Garri, the future of the plant is at stake," notes Eric Duchenne, director of the Alteo plant in Gardanne.

On this point, the plant has publicly received the support of the State through the voice of the sub-prefect of the district of Aix-en-Provence, Serge Gouteyron: “So yes, nothing will be simple, but we will do in such a way, in particular in the context of the requests filed to prosecute Mange-Garri over 30 years, to support the process.


Also listening to François Bland, the director of the Calanques National Park, Alteo's record of discharges at sea "has become a marker", a "methodology" to be duplicated.

"There has been a lot of debate in recent years around this issue, the results are there today with releases that comply with standards," he continues.

Alteo has demonstrated this possibility of reconciling economy and environment.

"And the park to invite Alteo to go further to, perhaps in the long term," recycle treated water ".


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