An environmental issue

When the folks that ran the large government agency responsible for maintaining the environment were asked to think of ways in which they might save the taxpayers a few shillings, they came up with all sorts of bright ideas.

But the best one of all was to pass the responsibility of maintaining the levels of effluent that outfits were allowed to discharge into rivers back onto the shoulders of the very same companies that were running the effluent treatment plants.

Then, instead of dispatching endless squads of environmental officials to each and every effluent treatment plant in the land, they would simply need to let the companies get on with the business in hand and read the reports they submitted back to the department on a regular basis.

It all seemed like a grand idea at the time and so it was implemented as quickly as possible. Many of the folks that were responsible for the budgets of that particular agency were very pleased with the results too – they saw the costs of the agency plummet as the number of personnel needed to perform the expensive monitoring talks were eliminated.  

That’s right. For a while, things seemed to be working very well indeed. Until the days of recession came and a few of the folks that ran some of the effluent treatment plants also decided upon a little cost-cutting measures of their own.

Realising that the folks at the environment department would accept as gospel any document that was presented to them, some unscrupulous operators decided to take the law into their own hands and fudge the figures that they presented to the agency, altering the amounts of effluent that they were dumping into the local rivers by a considerable sum.

Finally, the misdeeds of the companies came to light when one representative from the environment department spotted that the documents they had submitted had clearly been modified. As a result, the agency did then take a few measurements of its own and when it discovered the misdemeanours, it quickly took the companies in question to court.

Despite the fact that the companies were all successfully prosecuted for their bad behaviour, there are some folks in the agency that now wonder if they did the right thing to allow the companies to monitor their own effluent in the first place. After all, by the time the companies had been caught fiddling the figures, the damage to the environment had already been done.

But it’s not likely that things are going to change anytime soon. You see there’s a new round of cuts on the way and one can only imagine what sort of environmental hazards they will bring with them.

Dave Wilson
Editor, Engineeringtalk

Dave’s comments form part of the weekly Engineeringtalk newsletter, which also includes a round-up of the latest engineering products and services. To subscribe click here