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Knowledge Bank

Sewage or sewerage, water crises, attitudes to water in the UK and USA 

Knowledge Bank

Sewage or sewerage, water crises, attitudes to water in the UK and USA 

How do you address a universal challenge like water pollution, when the language isn’t universal?

Penstock Solutions is a UK based company and all of the work that we have done to-date, all of the involvement that we have had in developing the regulations,  has been here in the UK. However, the solutions that we provide have a universal application to what is a truly global issue, water pollution.

It’s a bit of conundrum. If you have a website, like this one, it is open to the world. Encouragingly, the world appears to be interested in our water pollution prevention products and services with only just over half of our traffic coming from the UK and a quarter coming from the US.

And therein lies the issue, we worry that what we are saying may get lost in translation. For example, here in the UK some people call human waste ‘sewerage’, others call it ‘sewage’. In the USA ‘sewerage’ usually refers to the infrastructure – the pipes, drains, manholes, overflows, chambers and so on that convey the waste to its final destination, hopefully a treatment plant but sometimes straight into a river or stream, lake, sea or ocean. In the UK we tend to call the infrastructure a sewer system, the word ‘sewer’ usually being the name for a sewerage pipe or drain. Or a sewer pipe or drain.

Are you confused yet? When do you use sewage, and when is sewerage best? It’s tricky these days, since the terms are fast becoming interchangeable. At the same time we’re very aware that mis-spelling an important term on a website can make a business look unprofessional. Take ‘roofs’ and ‘rooves’. ‘Roofs’ is the way the Americans tend to spell it, in the UK we’re supposed to spell it ‘rooves’, but we often use ‘roofs’ these days, and that leaves roofers in a difficult situation when writing their websites. The same goes for ‘hoofs’ and ‘hooves’.

Because they’re so often interchangeable, we tend to use both words on this website: sewerage and sewage. Whilst the words used to describe sewers, sewage and sewerage can be confusing, please be assured we always know what’s what when it comes to water pollution prevention.

Surface water versus storm water

In the UK we talk about surface water, and in the States they call it storm water. Both terms refer to water on the surface of the earth, for example water in a river, lake, wetland, or ocean, as opposed to atmospheric water. Wikipedia defines the US term ‘storm water’ like this: Stormwater, also spelled storm water, is water that originates during precipitation events and snow/ice melt. Stormwater can soak into the soil, be held on the surface and evaporate, or runoff and end up in nearby streams, rivers, or other water bodies.

USA versus UK water regulations – more differences

In the USA the corporations are compelled to comply with the Clean Water Act. In the UK we had a Clean Water Act of our own until 2009, at which point it was changed in line with European Law to become the Environmental Damage Regulations, the main focus of which was to introduce the ‘polluter pays’ principle. The polluter pays principle makes the party who created the pollution responsible for paying for the damage it causes to the natural environment, and it’s also a fundamental principle of North American environmental law. Our experience is that as consumers everyone is typically in favour/favor of this principle and it is only in our corporate roles that the costs prohibit adherence. This is why Sandfield Penstock are on a mission to make water pollution prevention as affordable and non-disruptive as possible, wherever you are in the world.

Differences in attitude.

Imagine what would happen in the UK if one of our towns or cities had to go without drinking water for several years? There’d be a public outcry, a huge scandal, and the water pollution issue would get fixed pretty fast in the face of strong public and political pressure. In the USA it’s different. Take Flint, in Michigan, a population of 100,000 people whose tap water quality is so poor it’s been deemed unfit for human consumption. It has been like that since 2014 and the problem still persists today. As well as bigger problems with their water supply, the USA seems to have a surprisingly unhealthy attitude to water pollution, despite it being an essential substance that human life cannot exist without. Of course, drinking water on tap is a privilege that few countries enjoy, with large parts of the world having to have their water supplied in plastic containers with all of the issues of plastic pollution that causes. I think most people would agree that only being able to get your water from plastic bottles isn’t a desirable proposition, and this is ultimately what drives us.

Water pollution prevention – the environment is everywhere.

The USA is a long way from the UK, and we’re not physically connected. But even if we were, water doesn’t obey borders. Our environment is universal and things like town, city and county borders don’t mean a thing when water pollution raises its ugly head.

Our spill containment solutions are applicable everywhere, we focus on the UK and don’t have the resources to service the whole world, but we would like to be doing that. We are having interesting conversations as far away as New Zealand and Canada with businesses who feel that what we offer would compliment what they provide to their customers and are looking at distributor relationships. If you feel our water pollution prevention valves and services might benefit your customers we would love to have that conversation with you too. Whilst we have plenty of problems of our own as a nation, it feels good to operate in a country where pollution is taken seriously. If you take water pollution as seriously as we do, we’d be delighted to talk, wherever you happen to be in the world.

If spill containment and CIRIA736 compliance is currently a consideration for you please do not hesitate to call 0330 223 4372 or email us, we will be very happy to discuss our solutions with you.

David Cole MSEE

David Cole MSEE

Technical Director

David is a pioneer of the spill containment and water pollution prevention industry with 30 years experience. He was instrumental in the development of CIRIA736 with The Environment Agency and is passionate about preventing water pollution.

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