All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Sarkozy's septic tank

Map of the French Riviera.Image via Wikipedia

French sewage disposal is a subject which only rarely surfaces....I think this may be an inappropriate word but no other comes to polite conversation, but M. le President has done it again. Sewage is uppermost...oh our minds after recent revelations of Presidential intervention in the disposal of his in-laws' waste on the French Riviera.
It appears that his in-laws live in an area where no collective waste disposal system...sewage works to the vulgar among us...exists. They appear to be thus on a par with most of rural France.
They would, it seems, like to have a sewage works but the neighbours won't agree to cough up the necessary contribution. Enter Sarkozy. At a meeting in the presence of the local Prefet -Paris' man in the local departments - and the man himself it was promised that the State would pay for the works. In-laws happy. Neighbours, on looking into the details of the scheme, not happy. Further meeting with the Prefet, but not with Sarkozy, who is out making the most of his old jet before the new one is delivered. Result, no sewage works and neighbours happy.
Return of Sarkozy. One wonders if his in-laws were able to call him up on the plane's communication system with which he is so unhappy or whether they had to wait in line with government ministers and suchlike canaille, but no matter. He is informed of the about face.
The Prefet has just been removed from his post without being appointed to another. Such is the importance of waste disposal to President Sarkozy.

We could do with his intervention out here in the sticks. While there are some individualists like the guy up the road whose waste runs straight into the ditch beside the road, most people have septic tanks of varying vintage and efficiency which occasionally need emptying if something goes drastically wrong. Mine backed up spectacularly once, and the night cart operators later presented me with a set of false teeth which, I can only imagine, had been deposited in the loo by an over enthusiastic reveller and had then worked their way in a fashion I would rather not contemplate into the outlet pipe. Try though I might I cannot fit those teeth to a face.....

However, in an attempt to conform to European Union water standards, local authorities are trying to clean up the system, so that only clean water percolates into the soil. To this end, they have usually delegated their powers to the regional water boards who are sending out inspectors to see what is happening and telling people to stop it. Gives a whole new light on water boarding.

A man will appear and will pour blue and red phials down your sink and loo. He will then go outside and try to trace red and blue colours where you tell him that the outlet pipe is...or at least, that is what those who have suffered this visitation tell me. I am still waiting as our water board has two men trying to examine all the septic tanks in over fifty communes. He will ask you how many bedrooms you have, how often they are occupied - what happens in rural brothels, I ask myself - and tells you whether your system is in the norms, if not, what you have to do to it and how long you have to do it and if it is, how often you should empty it. For this visit you are charged eighty euros.

This charge has raised hackles. Out here in the sticks, we pay water rates with a contribution to collective sewage disposal which does not benefit us as we have no access to it. Now the water boards are charging us to inspect our systems while being unable to offer us the services for which we are already paying. Several communes have started to protest and they are beginning to gather together to refuse payment.

Sewage wars. You read it here first.
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