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.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

An inspector calls

Compost heap on a frosty morning. The rising s...Image via Wikipedia

Down in la France Profonde, a little revolutionary spirit is stirring. At least two associations have been set up - if there are more the postlady can't know about them - to oppose authority - in this case, the water board - in the local sewage wars.

In the past the commune, the local unit of governmental control over the populace, had responsibility for waste disposal. As you might imagine, that meant that not very much was done about it at all. Local councils had more important things to do like refacing the facades of their buildings and replacing perfectly good but old fashioned office furniture with modern junk, in the intervals of initiating vastly expensive projects like buying up chateaux to house the childrens' play group.

One nearby town contented itself with using its' historic subterranean caverns for waste, which must have done a great deal to discourage archeology and research.

Any commune on a river thanked its' lucky stars and piped the whole lot away into the stream.

Elsewhere, the ditches were ripe in summer and fertile to an amazing degree.

However this is an environmentally conscious age so, given the chance, the communes happily signed over their disposal responsibilities to the water board and continued to modernise office furniture and buy up chateaux.

The water board, now responsible for both supply and disposal, included an obligatory charge towards disposal in its' bills, whether or not the property was linked to what might laughingly be called 'the mains'.

I can remember sewage stations being opened with great fanfare, only to find that in periods of heavy rain the whole shooting match would rise to the surface and flood low lying parts of the village and others which were and are flushed out into the river when it was in flood, as the debris on my banks bears witness when the waters subside.

It is not that long ago that the abbatoir in a local town was finally coerced into sorting out its' disposal and not before time. Upstream of me, in the next commune, there were times when, like Virgil as quoted by Enoch Powell, one could see 'the river foaming with much blood'. And other stuff. The last of the ladies who washed clothes on its' banks complained long and bitterly for years, but only the coercive power of prospective European legislation on clean water brought about any change.

The French are supine generally, crushed into inactivity under the burden of producing huge families in order to get the most from the tax system while attempting to make ends meet while paying the vast taxes required to support the social security system which enables......but then, to me, the whole French way of financing health and social security resembles something invented by Dr. Strabismus (whom God preserve) of Utrecht.

However, the hike in local taxes, necessary to pay for all the civil servants transferred from state control to local authority control, has made people rather more likely to raise their heads above the parapet, and the advent of the sewage inspectors has been the spark which has set off, not the powder keg, but certainly the fuse leading to it.

The theory is that these overworked gentlemen will proceed from commune to commune, inspecting every disposal installation or lack thereof, will certify it as being in the norms or not and will go on their way having trousered some 85 Euros, leaving some householders very happy and others facing bills for the installation of new systems which will leave them unfit for reproduction for some time to come, having been blown backwards bow legged by the size of the said bills.

I have already related mutterings from the next commune and the unproductive meeting with the head of the water board. Mark you, I cannot think why anyone thought a meeting would bring about progress. Meetings in France - participation in the democratic process - are occasions where everyone blows off steam and then higher authority tells them that no doubt the occasion has done them a world of good and that higher authority will now do what it was going to do anyway. Another manifestation of the theory that the state embodies the will of the people.

There has been no answer as to why, when we are already paying towards the costs of waste disposal on our water bills, we should pay again to have our installations inspected.
The qualifications of the inspectors have been called into question.
Their methods have been decried...messing about with bits of red and blue colourant does not seem very scientific to the French mind...not when it's paying for said messing about, anyway.
The wild and unjust variations as between installations.
The discovery that they are taking the word of - some - proprietors as to the state of their system and making no investigation at all.
The further discovery that they were given their own secret norms to follow...not more than 15 per cent of installations to be found unacceptable or the water board will come under pressure to provide sewage stations.

The associations have decided on a course of action.

Their adherents will be out for the day when the inspectors call.

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