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Some publicity this week about the latest figures on the quality of our sea-water. Apparently bathers venturing into the sea this summer face a high chance of falling ill at over 100 popular British beaches. Raw sewage and farm waste pumped straight into the water mean that one in seven swimmers risk catching a stomach bug or contracting an eye, ear or nose infection. 130 beaches fail to meet standards of water cleanliness recommended by the European Union, including favourite holiday haunts like Scarborough, Hastings and Ilfracombe.
 
427 out of 561 beaches achieved the recommended EU standard, which is the equivalent to swimmers having a one in 20 risk of falling ill every time they go into the water. But bathers elsewhere face a chance of between 5 per cent and 14 per cent of infection from swallowing sea water, or absorbing it through the nose or ears, every time they go for a dip.
 
Despite a 10billion clean up by water companies over thirty years, there are still 73 beaches in Britain where raw or semi-filtered human sewage is pumped into the sea. At Brighton, for instance, the sewage from 250,000 people is pumped into the sea just a mile from the beach to be eaten by fish. The fish are then caught in nets by Spanish fishermen, who take them back to Spain and turn them into paella. How's that for a holiday slogan? - "Come to sunny Spain and eat your own sh*t!"
 

Some sh*t
 

Sh*t Creek, presumably
 
Frankly, this is just disgusting. We have litter-wardens patrolling our streets and school playgrounds handing out fixed-penalty notices to any child who throws a chip to a seagull, we all dutifully take our dogs for a walk armed with pooper-scoopers, encouraged by differential road-tax rates we are shopping around for the least polluting cars, and we all pay lip-service at least to carbon footprints and all that rubbish (come on, I dare you: produce for me a realistic and believable estimate of the amount of CO2 emitted per passenger by a crowded diesel train from Norwich to Birmingham. I bet you can't.). When a farmer clears out his ditches once a year, there are at least two separate, distinct and conflicting sets of rules about what he should do with the rubbish, each with fines if he disobeys. Our local authorities are so zealous in their fight to make us keep our homes, towns and countryside clean and attractive that little boys aren't allowed to fly pirate flags in their gardens, we religiously separate our cardboard and newspaper from our plastic bottles and our glass so the bin men can come round once every four or five months and chuck it all in the landfill anyway - but what of our most sensitive and unpleasant waste? No problem - just chuck it in the sea.
 
We think we've paid to have it taken care of. Our local councils used to be in charge of sewage but they've been allowed to sell it off to contractors. So now we pay a fairly grandiose rate of water charges so these profit-seeking franchise-holders can just chuck the sh*t in the sea. This is a national disgrace. Frankly, people should die for being so filthy and antisocial, especially when they've taken our hard-earned money to keep the place clean.
 
In recent years we have heard a lot from scientists (you remember, those wise all-knowing people who keep telling us what to do, and get very shirty when we don't give them the respect they think they deserve?) about how much cleaner our seas have become. There are salmon in the Thames, seahorses off the coast of Kent and mermen in Morecambe Bay (oh no, that was something else, sorry). Yet the Marine Conservation Society's Beachwatch reported in April that British beaches are nearly twice as dirty as they were 13 years ago, and that levels of marine waste are the highest since the survey began in 1994. It's hard for us ordinary mortals to know who to believe, isn't it? One thing's certain, though. Whatever the truth, it'll all be our fault. I mean, it's our sh*t, isn't it?
 
Yes, I know we pay the water companies to take care of it for us, but it's our sh*t so we should be making sure they are doing the job properly instead of er sweeping it under the carpet. So it's our fault. Of course we have local authorities, and a central government, and a Department for the Environment, and Defra, to oversee these things for us. But when they don't, it'll end up being our fault, just you see. It always does.
 
It's guaranteed that those in power won't do anything. They've probably all got shares in water companies anyway. They'll just hide behind "the rules". They'll say "We've followed all the rules, we've adopted the correct procedure at every stage, so it's not our fault. They won't bother to tell you that they made the rules in the first place. Here's an example:
 
In a press release on June 30th last year Defra revealed that
 
"A request that Defra Secretary of State David Miliband 'call in' for his own determination four applications to discharge treated sewage effluent, and sewage effluent in an emergency, into the English Channel at Brighton and Hove has been turned down.
 
The four applications by Southern Water to the Environment Agency concern proposed discharges from new wastewater treatment works at Brighton and Hove and wastewater pumping stations at Marine Drive, Portobello and Black Rock.
 
The Secretary of State can call in applications when objections to such proposals are lodged. The criteria for determining whether a call in is appropriate are that the proposed discharge should be of more than regional significance, and raise novel or unusual issues which have not been publicly debated in another context. The Secretary of State found that the Southern Water applications did not satisfy these criteria."

 
In other words Miliband doesn't give a toss whether or not sh*t should be pumped into the sea at Brighton, his only concern is whether the rules have been followed. They have, so he's not interested.
 
(Under the Water Resources Act 1991 (the WRA), the Environment Agency (the Agency) has responsibility for the regulation of discharges to rivers, lakes, tidal, coastal and groundwaters in England and Wales. To make a discharge, it is a requirement under the act o make an application to the Agency. Most applications have to be advertised, and third parties have the right to lodge representations or objections against the application to the Agency before a decision is made. The Act also provides objectors with a route to the Secretary of State to request him to 'call in' an application if they have continuing concerns about an application not already addressed by the Agency. The Secretary of State can either call in an application for his own determination or refuse the request, in which case the application is returned to the Agency for a decision.)
 
It is apparently possible for perpetrators of this filth to be brought to account. There is talk of prosecutions in connection with the recent spill of sewage in Scotland, when a pump run by the contractors, Thames Water, broke down and there was no backup system.
 
The EU has rules about sewage - sensibly enough since the sea washes many different shores. The Urban Waste Water Directive (UWWD) 91/271/EEC compliance deadline came into force for inland cities and major town's sewage outfall discharges to rivers and estuaries on 31st December 1998. For the major marine sewage discharges, i.e. the outfalls to the sea, the deadline was 31st December 2000. The UWWD demanded that to protect public health and the environment no sewage sludge must enter the water (i.e. primary treatment to remove the solids), secondary treatment (aeration to further destroy pathogens) as a minimum, and that tertiary treatment (UV irradiation and/or nutrient stripping) must be provided in environmentally sensitive areas.
 
This is a list, published on the internet by Friends of the Earth, of places where either raw sewage or "screened" sewage was being pumped directly into the sea on 31st December 2000
 
Caister, Great Yarmouth, Clacton, Cromer, Sheringham, Ingoldmells, Jaywick, Lowestoft, Mundesley, Meols, North Wirral, Whitehaven, Workington, Amble, Cambois, Newbiggin, Seaham, Camborne, Torbay, Folkestone, Dover, Eastbourne, Hastings, Hythe, Margate, Broadstairs, Brighton, Portobello, Sandown, Ventnor, Shoreham, Swalecliffe and Worthing.
 
Nice.
 

 
The GOS says: Still, you have to look on the bright side, don't you? Sea bathing is still a lot safer than going into hospital.
 

 

 

 
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