A French 19th century council hall.
During the summer, I "cover" a score of villages and small towns. A local correspondent has to sit through the town council meetings. I like it. In those small rural communes, the elected officials have known each other since first grade. They drop home after their day work to take off their overall, shower and put a proper tee shirt, like city people. One understands very quickly, without subtext, who is conservative or liberal, who takes care of the landowners' interests or tries to break away the mould . During the town council meeting photographed above (nice village, cool mayor), I came to hear for the first time of a new law on septic tanks.
In January 2006 the upteenth phase of European water and environment protection will be enforced. Sewage communal networks and plants are all set. That much is done. And now, the latest European law will tackle the private septic tanks.That is a big one. Where I live, the brand new sewage plants hardly function to full capacity People go by with individual septic tanks, installed in every new home during the Seventies and Eighties.And they like it this way.
To make a census of unsafe, unclean, leaking septic tanks, squads of surveyors will deploy and do rounds of inspections in the most private corner of private homes.The mayor and the counsellors debate over how to enforce this new law on their territory. This will not go down well with the local citizens. Not well at all. "They can try, they will not come into my home!" says the deputy-mayor in charge of roadworks. The mayor offers to delegate this hot potato to one "Regional Committee of perilious habitat" for the time being. Everyone votes for that. This lavatory inspection squad spells trouble ahead, they know it, even with the European subsidies given away to up and refurbish the septic tank. It's a political time-bomb. A counsellor points that very few people nowadays know where, exactly, lies the septic tank on their property. The houses have changed hands many times over the years. How will the septic tanks' inspectors locate them? With a shit detector?
In a matter of weeks every town councils in my beat had put the septic tanks problem on the agenda. I saw this future national-news headline being hatched. The war of the johns! During my last town council (in a 200 inhabitants village), the deputy-mayor jumped to his feet and declared: "Let them come! They will find me and my rifle!". The hunting season for toilets' inspectors is officially open