18 Nov 2008

French power company fined for harming animals

7:09 am on 18 November 2008

A French court has ruled that a State owned power company must pay 390,000 euros ($US493,200) to a farming family that claims a high-voltage line caused its animals to fall sick.

RTE, an arm of EDF, said it would appeal against the decision.

The court of Tulle in southwest France said it had requested RTE to pay for the damage caused after it placed a high-voltage line above a farm in the village of Latronche in the Correze departement.

Court prosecutor Etienne Manteaux said on Monday that the "proof" was gathered by a family of farmers over the last 10 years. He said they were farmers "who have always been considered in the agricultural world to be excellent."

He acknowledged this "wasn't proved scientifically and with certainty" but said the judge considered "there was no other possibility."

A high-voltage line was set up above the farm in 1943 to transport electricity from a nearby hydroelectric dam at L'Aigle. Cows and pigs reportedly showed worsening health problems when a fifth turbine was added in the late 1980s.

A member of the family, Serge Marcouyoux, 34, said the line, which was 30 metres from the house, caused him respiratory problems and deafness in his mother, 57, and father, 59.

Mr Marcouyoux said his symptoms stopped when he moved into a caravan further away from the site.

He claimed neighbouring farmers had similar problems.