sh.t in Rivers

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El Pollo Diablo
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Thu Oct 28, 2021 10:28 am

nezumi wrote:
Wed Oct 27, 2021 7:47 pm
The solution, I gather, is £150 billion to replace the sewers which is scare money. It's 3 years worth of the entire NHS. If trace and trace and etc cost 37 billion it is worth it.
It's just over one year of the NHS fwiw.
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by nezumi » Thu Oct 28, 2021 11:24 am

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Thu Oct 28, 2021 10:28 am
nezumi wrote:
Wed Oct 27, 2021 7:47 pm
The solution, I gather, is £150 billion to replace the sewers which is scare money. It's 3 years worth of the entire NHS. If trace and trace and etc cost 37 billion it is worth it.
It's just over one year of the NHS fwiw.
Makes it even more of an obvious thing to do the.
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by plodder » Thu Oct 28, 2021 12:04 pm

The solution, with imagination, could be way less expensive.

I think one of the big underlying problems stems from design codes. Engineers are under pressure to provide reliable designs (at zero risk to their employer) at the lowest cost and fastest time. This rules out first principles design there’s a significant reliance on software or processes that are underpinned by design codes (british standards etc), “best practice” and the like.

Really difficult to innovate in that environment, and of course this is a situation where new ideas would be particularly useful.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Oct 28, 2021 12:33 pm

Minimising the amount of rainwater that ends up in sewers would be easier than rebuilding them, surely?

SUDS, rewilded uplands and floodplains and the odd constructed wetland etc ought to be able to squish peak flow into something much longer and therefore easily manageable. There's plenty of pilot studies.

The issue is the lack of joined up thinking about landscape as a system. It's rare that a water company is going to invest in reforestation. The government would be well advised to draw on the wealth of expertise in its regulatory bodies, universities and NGOs though.
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by Grumble » Thu Oct 28, 2021 1:08 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Oct 28, 2021 12:33 pm
Minimising the amount of rainwater that ends up in sewers would be easier than rebuilding them, surely?

SUDS, rewilded uplands and floodplains and the odd constructed wetland etc ought to be able to squish peak flow into something much longer and therefore easily manageable. There's plenty of pilot studies.

The issue is the lack of joined up thinking about landscape as a system. It's rare that a water company is going to invest in reforestation. The government would be well advised to draw on the wealth of expertise in its regulatory bodies, universities and NGOs though.
One more reason why building housing estates on floodplains is a bad idea
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by plodder » Thu Oct 28, 2021 1:12 pm

yeah but the problem is that these are mini-interventions. For example, rewilding the uplands of London isn’t going to make much difference to drainage capacity, so although blue/green infrastructure will make small differences (dependent on the site) it also needs upgraded sewerage and pre-treatment storage, changes in behaviour, SUDS etc and that’s before you even get into hydrological changes from climate change. So all these scientists and research bodies need to get their ducks in a row too.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by noggins » Thu Oct 28, 2021 1:52 pm

If the sewage infrastructure is decrepid, then isn't the only choice to pay a zillion pounds now to fix it now, or pay a zillion pounds in 5/10/20 years time and spend 5/10/20 more years swimming in sh.t.

Any decent interrogations of the cost out there? The 150b is somewhere between misleading and a big fat f.cking lie.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Oct 28, 2021 2:00 pm

plodder wrote:
Thu Oct 28, 2021 1:12 pm
yeah but the problem is that these are mini-interventions. For example, rewilding the uplands of London isn’t going to make much difference to drainage capacity, so although blue/green infrastructure will make small differences (dependent on the site) it also needs upgraded sewerage and pre-treatment storage, changes in behaviour, SUDS etc and that’s before you even get into hydrological changes from climate change. So all these scientists and research bodies need to get their ducks in a row too.
Yes, it's horses for courses. Large metropoles will need different solutions to rural areas, I'm sure, and catchments vary significantly in all sorts of ways. I expect catchment-scale is generally the sensible scale to be thinking about, which in many cases will be bigger than local authorities and EA offices, but it's not perhaps necessary to make a single unified nationwide strategy as long as there's support for bigger-picture, longer-term solutions in there somewhere.

I'm sure that big old cities with ancient infrastructure will need a load of engineering improvements too, but I don't think the discussion should start and finish with concrete pipes in towns.
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by dyqik » Thu Oct 28, 2021 2:31 pm

noggins wrote:
Thu Oct 28, 2021 1:52 pm
If the sewage infrastructure is decrepid, then isn't the only choice to pay a zillion pounds now to fix it now, or pay a zillion pounds in 5/10/20 years time and spend 5/10/20 more years swimming in sh.t.

Any decent interrogations of the cost out there? The 150b is somewhere between misleading and a big fat f.cking lie.
In reality, it's probably more like "pay 1/10th to 1/20th of a zillion pounds per year (inflation adjusted) starting now and spend 10-20 years swimming in decreasing quantities of sh.t" vs "pay 1/5th of a zillion pounds per year, starting in 20 years time, for 20 years, and spend 20 years swimming in increasing quantities of sh.t, paying increasing fractions of a zillion pounds per year in costs elsewhere, before it starts decreasing and you get down to last year's level of sh.t in 40 years time".

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by Little waster » Thu Oct 28, 2021 4:47 pm

dyqik wrote:
Wed Oct 27, 2021 11:41 am
Separating storm drains and sewers is something that's been pretty heavily worked on here* in the past 10 years.

Of course, our sewer and water systems are all publicly owned...

*eastern Mass.
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by Grumble » Thu Oct 28, 2021 10:18 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Oct 28, 2021 2:00 pm
plodder wrote:
Thu Oct 28, 2021 1:12 pm
yeah but the problem is that these are mini-interventions. For example, rewilding the uplands of London isn’t going to make much difference to drainage capacity, so although blue/green infrastructure will make small differences (dependent on the site) it also needs upgraded sewerage and pre-treatment storage, changes in behaviour, SUDS etc and that’s before you even get into hydrological changes from climate change. So all these scientists and research bodies need to get their ducks in a row too.
Yes, it's horses for courses. Large metropoles will need different solutions to rural areas, I'm sure, and catchments vary significantly in all sorts of ways. I expect catchment-scale is generally the sensible scale to be thinking about, which in many cases will be bigger than local authorities and EA offices, but it's not perhaps necessary to make a single unified nationwide strategy as long as there's support for bigger-picture, longer-term solutions in there somewhere.

I'm sure that big old cities with ancient infrastructure will need a load of engineering improvements too, but I don't think the discussion should start and finish with concrete pipes in towns.
I have known a couple of wastewater engineers (my comment above about people paving their front gardens was a hobby horse of one) and I’m fairly sure that they wouldn’t deliberately design a system that flushed untreated sewage out deliberately. In fact quite the opposite, generally despairing about the terrible state of Britain’s waterways compared with eg Germany. This was some time before Brexit was even a glint in Cameron’s eye. The whole system is designed to a principle of lowest cost rather than best quality.
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Oct 28, 2021 11:00 pm

My understanding is that the discharge systems have to built in for emergencies (and I think everyone accepts that genuine emergencies happen). But there's an additional management decision about how often to use the emergency discharge system, and it seems that many companies are using them incredibly frequently (generally right up to the legally permitted maximum). I expect engineers are good at optimising over whichever parameter space they're given, but the issue is that the people making the decisions aren't sufficiently incentivised to maintain water quality at a level other people find acceptable.

To me it seems like an issue where change will likely need to be largely top-down, though there are e.g. some interesting cases of communities buying out plots of upland, and changing the land management to better mitigate the flood risk to their properties downstream. But so far those are only "mini-interventions".
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Oct 28, 2021 11:02 pm

Little waster wrote:
Thu Oct 28, 2021 4:47 pm
dyqik wrote:
Wed Oct 27, 2021 11:41 am
Separating storm drains and sewers is something that's been pretty heavily worked on here* in the past 10 years.

Of course, our sewer and water systems are all publicly owned...

*eastern Mass.
You do realise you are basically living in a 1984-style Communist dystopia?

You should try living somewhere FREE like the UK where our proud Freedom Turds patriotically float past us to the ocean as we gambol carefree in our murky-brown shitcreeks.
Meh, that's what they said about state-operated trains when Corbyn wanted to do it, but a year later you're getting them. If there's any pushback against the idea of state intervention in wastewater management from the basis of right-wing ideology, it'll evaporate in the face of Johnsonista realpolitik.
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by plodder » Fri Oct 29, 2021 6:27 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Oct 28, 2021 11:00 pm
My understanding is that the discharge systems have to built in for emergencies (and I think everyone accepts that genuine emergencies happen). But there's an additional management decision about how often to use the emergency discharge system, and it seems that many companies are using them incredibly frequently (generally right up to the legally permitted maximum). I expect engineers are good at optimising over whichever parameter space they're given, but the issue is that the people making the decisions aren't sufficiently incentivised to maintain water quality at a level other people find acceptable.

To me it seems like an issue where change will likely need to be largely top-down, though there are e.g. some interesting cases of communities buying out plots of upland, and changing the land management to better mitigate the flood risk to their properties downstream. But so far those are only "mini-interventions".
Ask your engineer friend how “emergency” is defined (especially across the 50 year lifespan of a new scheme), and ask them to bear in mind that designing and building new sewerage is v rare compared to sweating the existing assets.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Oct 29, 2021 11:09 am

The fact that many companies are having 100+ days of emergency a year suggests the definition is quite liberal.

I'm normally no fan of nanny state solutions, but people who have hundreds of emergencies involving sh.t every year generally need a nanny.
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by plodder » Fri Oct 29, 2021 12:28 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Oct 29, 2021 11:09 am
The fact that many companies are having 100+ days of emergency a year suggests the definition is quite liberal.

I'm normally no fan of nanny state solutions, but people who have hundreds of emergencies involving sh.t every year generally need a nanny.
OK - but we need to be clear on what the designers consider to be an emergency - because these failing systems are old, knackered and badly maintained. If we want to understand the cost of the solution we also need to consider the fact that the infrastructure needs replacing anyway.

The government literally giving them license to sweat this stuff for another decade or two is insane.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by science_fox » Fri Oct 29, 2021 2:58 pm

https://fullfact.org/environment/murky- ... o0Xd5Xlsfc

Some clarification ^. But no definitions of emergency, or clarifications of where the various numbers come from.
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by plodder » Fri Oct 29, 2021 7:20 pm

science_fox wrote:
Fri Oct 29, 2021 2:58 pm
https://fullfact.org/environment/murky- ... o0Xd5Xlsfc

Some clarification ^. But no definitions of emergency, or clarifications of where the various numbers come from.
Or any sort of investigative journalism of the sort that would quickly reveal how chronically understaffed the EA are, how little regulation actually happens in practice, the age of the infrastructure and the fact it needs renewal, the way that self-reporting by water companies has repeated shown to fail etc etc.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by plodder » Fri Oct 29, 2021 7:20 pm

Easier just to follow (yes, that) Fergal Sharkey on twitter who has been evidence-based campaigning on this for years.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Oct 29, 2021 8:50 pm

Yeah Sharkey is the tits it seems. And (unlike with terrestrial conservation,) angling groups seem generally reliably evidence-based. Possibly because anglers do loads of water quality monitoring via RIVPACS.
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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by plodder » Fri Oct 29, 2021 11:15 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Oct 29, 2021 8:50 pm
Yeah Sharkey is the tits it seems. And (unlike with terrestrial conservation,) angling groups seem generally reliably evidence-based. Possibly because anglers do loads of water quality monitoring via RIVPACS.
Yes - and they have direct contact with the polluters and regulators - they understand the system and know why it’s broken. See also Surfers Against Sewage.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by IvanV » Thu Nov 04, 2021 2:14 am

I have previously mentioned the recent closure of Crestyl, the last watercress grower in the Chilterns, operating since 1870. But it is worth, perhaps, telling the story more completely in the context of this thread. It was squeezed in a pincer movement between two decisions from the Environment Agency. The beds are located on the central core section of the Chess Valley Walk, so we often walked past and bought some. The Chess is a particularly important environmental resource. The same section of river has the only watervole population in the Chilterns, and many other important natural features.

Thames Water had the usual permission to allow Chesham sewage works to overflow into the Chess in "exceptional conditions". As the local population and its discharges grew, this gradually became almost every day during the wetter half of the year, plus every time it rained even moderately in the drier half. When the situation was identified, the cress works were told to stop selling their cress, as it would not be fit for human consumption when irrigated with such water. When the cress bed owners saw that this situation would take a few years to fix, but was anticipated to be fixed eventually, they obtained an abstraction licence to sink a borehole and irrigate their cress with the groundwater, as a temporary solution.

Thames Water duly pleaded guilty to a suitable charge, one of many similar prosecutions it endures apparently as a routine cost of doing business. I believe that the Chess situation isn't even the worst example of persistent sewage overflows that are supposed to be "exceptional circumstances" only within the Thames catchment.

So then there is a deal to be done between Thames Water and the Environment Agency over what enhancement to the sewage works is sufficient to deal with the situation. And Ofwat gets involved too, because whatever is agreed will have to be funded by sewerage customers, ie you and me, through their sewerage charges. So there is an institutional pressure from that direction also to keep the cost down.

The obvious way to deal with it, in principle, is to introduce a holding tank that holds the sewage when the flow is high until the treatment works can deal with it later. So then there is a queuing theory question about the size of the holding tank, and the capacity of the works to process what is in the tank, and how often the "queue" will exceed the size of the tank. Typically anything that involves increasing the processing capacity will be more expensive than building a tank, but clearly you need enough processing capacity. If your processing capacity isn't even sufficient to deal with the yearly average flow, then there must be persistent overflows. And if the processing capacity is only a little more than can deal with the average flow, then probably the tank has to be enormous to smooth out seasonal flows - it will still be dealing with Feb inputs come August. So at some point you are designing in how much overflow there will be.

So Chesham got what was referred to by another poster as a "cheap and cheerful" solution that designs in regular overflows, which are apparently reduced to an "acceptable level" for the Environment Agency. But the Environment Agency now knows just what they are. And whilst judging them a perfectly reasonable hazard for the watervoles and the trout, apparently the cress needs a higher standard than the wildlife to be fit for human consumption. And what they have chosen does not return it to a situation good enough for the cress.

Throughout much of my 30-year residence in this general area, the Chess has mostly been rather low in level. Often the sewage works output (the processed stuff, not the overflow) provided over half its flow, even 2/3 in drier periods. But recently the Chess has been flowing unusually well, for quite some time now. The springs that feed it in Chesham Old Town have been very productive and escaping all over the adjacent roads. I can only remember one time nearly 20 years ago when the springs were more productive.

The consequence of this recent persistently high flow in the Chess is that the Chess water encroaches into the cress beds, because the borehole irrigation water does not create sufficient pressure to keep the Chess out. So Crestyl applied to the Agency for an increased abstraction licence. If they increased the irrigation flow, it would keep the Chess sufficiently out of their beds. But the Agency turned down their request. And so they closed.

The house within the larger site held by the owner of the cress beds is a very lovely and special place to live. The people who live there are clearly not short of a bob or two. Their affluence tends to suggest that the cress was clearly not their only income source. So they have given up cress growing, and that is the end of it. There used to be some other cress beds in the area, on the Colne downstream of Rickmansworth, by Springwell Lane, which closed some decades ago. Just recently a new development of several "bankers' mansions" (as I call them) was plonked on them, making someone a lot of money. It's called Cress Beds. Though I think it would be difficult for something similar to happen at Crestyl.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by plodder » Thu Nov 04, 2021 3:50 am

Not saying that there hasn’t been an appalling catalogue of errors with how chalk streams are managed and regulated, but over-abstraction is a significant part of the problem. If there’s no baseflow in the river then the ecology is obviously more vulnerable to pollution, which in turn doesn’t get diluted.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by IvanV » Thu Nov 04, 2021 9:54 am

plodder wrote:
Thu Nov 04, 2021 3:50 am
Not saying that there hasn’t been an appalling catalogue of errors with how chalk streams are managed and regulated, but over-abstraction is a significant part of the problem. If there’s no baseflow in the river then the ecology is obviously more vulnerable to pollution, which in turn doesn’t get diluted.
Yes. But Crestyl would only need to pump more water when the Chess is high, ie, just when there is more water in the aquifers than they can hold and it is spurting out all over the place. Although having got the abstraction licence, you can imagine someone making full use of it by putting it to other purposes. Bottled Chess Valley Spring Water or something. It would perhaps need some kind of conditions, though maybe such conditions are in practice hard to enforce.

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Re: sh.t in Rivers

Post by plodder » Thu Nov 04, 2021 12:25 pm

IvanV wrote:
Thu Nov 04, 2021 9:54 am
plodder wrote:
Thu Nov 04, 2021 3:50 am
Not saying that there hasn’t been an appalling catalogue of errors with how chalk streams are managed and regulated, but over-abstraction is a significant part of the problem. If there’s no baseflow in the river then the ecology is obviously more vulnerable to pollution, which in turn doesn’t get diluted.
Yes. But Crestyl would only need to pump more water when the Chess is high, ie, just when there is more water in the aquifers than they can hold and it is spurting out all over the place. Although having got the abstraction licence, you can imagine someone making full use of it by putting it to other purposes. Bottled Chess Valley Spring Water or something. It would perhaps need some kind of conditions, though maybe such conditions are in practice hard to enforce.
Over abstraction of chalk streams is such a hot topic for environmental reasons (and would perhaps impact the statutory designations, e.g. SPA, SAC etc) that they may well have needed to demonstrate 'over-riding public interest' or some such, which you might get for a new railway (or waterworks) but you won't justify for a local farming operation. Just an observation that legal protections can often be difficult to overcome and it might not just be short-sighted local bureaucrats.

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