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Calais refugee camp: Standing Water - Health risks

Anton Zhyzhyn
related country: France
related country: France


There is standing water at many locations at Calais refugee camp. Drainage is difficult - the location is right at the coast.

There are anecdotal reports that the standing water may be contaminated with raw sewage but I'm not sure about this. The toilets are a mixture of portaloos and the toilets that Solidarites manage. Desludging seems to be adequate.

I'm aware of some of the microbial requirements for drinking water, but in Calais this is supplied by the local government from the mains.

Would it be sensible to test suspect standing water for e coli to rule out a possible sludge leakage? Which other health hazards might be present due to this standing water? Are there any other tests that it would be helpful to run in order to rule out such other hazards?

Thanks, Anton

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3 Answers


Various issues

  • Before measuring for E coli - does it smell? that's a good indicator of organic pollution

  • Where is the water coming from? rain, spillage, leakage, dirty bathing/ laundry water?

  • Don't just think about health - this is not a good environment to live in so even if there is not a health issue, it is unpleasant to live in

  • if you are worried about health - address hand washing first!

  • Address the source of the problem first

  • think about soak aways if drainage under gravity is not easy

  • what about all the solid waste in the photos??


I endorse Brian's comments regarding the concentration on health aspects. However, judging by the appearance of the water, particularly in the first photo, it seems, at least in part to be sullage from bathing and clothes washing. Don't waste your time and effort and testing the water, you can be sure that it is contaminated and a health hazard and the problem should be addressed. There is a common conception that sullage is not harmful, which is not true.


Testing for ecoli or other coliforms is unlikely to identify sludge leakage in this case. It will merely point out what is already fairly apparent that there is contamination in the water. This is most likely to originate from washing and laundry as well as animal faeces even if there is not human waste getting into the mix.

Basically I concur with the other answers, better take action to remove the problem rather than do a lot of analysis because if it isn't contaminated now it very soon will be.