The Canary is excited to share the third edition of our members’ letters page. This is where we publish people’s responses to the news, politics, or anything else they want to get off their chest. However, this is a members-only benefit! If you’d like to subscribe monthly to the Canary – starting from just £1 – and get a letter published, then you can do that here:
This week’s letters
This week we’ve got an interesting letter about how the UK deals with its sewage, some robust thoughts on the BBC, a look at the Over-50s Party, and a question about whether our Tory-run country is actually the Titanic.
The Secret Science of Sewage
Weirdly, sewage has been called a renewable resource. Dr George McGavin and Dr Zoe Lauchlin visited Minworth sewage works near Birmingham (BBC4, 22.2.22). The inflow contains fecal matter and urine, plus household detergents. Energy and minerals can be reclaimed from this stinking mess. Urea contains much nitrogen.
First, sieves rotate and extract larger objects: wet wipes, plastics and hair. The rest is channeled to 22 settlement tanks. Heavy matter sinks and grease floats to be scraped off. Heavier particles collect in the tank’s conical bottom and go into a collection tank underneath; cleaner sewage water filters over and on to the next stage.
The sludge goes to 16 giant biodigester silos. Bacteria are added: they feed on the sludge and give off methane. The methane is piped off and supplements natural gas. Biomethane is a low emissions fuel. A car called the Biobug was constructed to run on biomethane gas canisters. The exhaust contains 99% less particulate matter and 90% less CO2. Biomethane could power buses and HGVs.
The residual liquid contains fecal matter in suspension, as well as ammonia, and goes into six massive activated tanks with piped oxygen. Micro-organisms feed on the particles and ammonia and clean the water via bioengineering. The remaining liquid settles: the clear top part is released into the river and any residue is returned to the tanks.
The 2020 UN report stated that the planet’s soils are being degraded. Wood shavings replace water in compost toilets: pathogens disappear after two years, giving off CO2 and water; the residue locks nutrients into humus. Similarly dried solids from the biodigester are treated by thermal hydrolysis – heated to 160 degrees Celsius and pasteurized: they are full of nitrogen and phosphorus – black gold to replenish and condition soil.
There are good and bad bacteria. Some help us digest food and kill off pathogens: others are deadly superbugs. Dr Ellie Jamieson used microscopy to look for phages in the later stages of liquid: these are little receptors on legs that recognise bacteria, stick to it, and take it over. They can kill superbugs. Antibiotics kill off all bacteria, but phages target only bad bacteria, and are potentially life savers.
The sewage system is old, and in chronic need of replacing and updating. The size of street drains in the UK is tiny compared to the gaping holes in Florida to drain surface water. That probably reflects the expectation for rainfall, which is more tropical in Florida. However, patterns of rainfall have changed with the climate crisis, and we are seeing more droughts and floods here now. Sadly, our drains are no longer equal to coping with the possible levels of rainwater. When they are overwhelmed they could potentially backflow into our toilets and streets, as rainwater goes into the same pipes as human waste. To prevent this happening, legislation allows the emergency discharge of untreated sewage into our rivers and seas.
Water companies are responsible for drainage and sewage, but the number of their discharges of raw sewage far exceeds the times of excess rainfall. They must be held to account: it is no doubt cheaper to discharge more raw sewage. Water companies were sold off and privatised. Private companies need to show profits, and this may conflict with their duty to give the best possible service. Excessive pay for senior management and payments to shareholders may well mean less than optimal investment in renewing and updating. They should be re-nationalised, and emphasis put on service, not profit.
Planning is another issue. More housing means more people, and should mean increasing services like sewage, but this can be overlooked, leading to undue pressure on a failing system.
Carol Broom, via email
BBC untruths about strikes
BBC current affairs reports, interviews and programmes are nothing short of right-wing propaganda. The Tory Party and their media attack dogs state the BBC is ‘leftist’. But that’s typical gaslighting garbage from the fascists. Question Time is a joke: a hand-picked puppet audience with pre-show-loaded pro-government questions aimed at any panel member who disagrees with them and their pet government.
The BBC article the Canary covered about a ‘lifelong socialist’ disagreeing with the RMT strikes sums up that this a serious problem – showing just how far they have gone to the dogs. It’s not the striking union movement’s members holding the public to ransom – it’s the privatised train companies and their rich shareholders who own the companies. They charge us outlandish amounts of money to travel in their carriages, and receive huge subsidies from public coffers. Win-win for them, lose-lose for us and their workforce.
Nationalise every industry and public service Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown et al. privatised. The NHS, rail transport, bus transport, and the Post Office should, with immediate effect, be put back into the public sector – no ifs, buts or maybes.
Patrick McQueenie, via email
Response to Canary article The Breakthrough Party put Labour to shame, 29 November 2022
Thousands of members, yet the Breakthrough Party has yet to win a single MP anywhere – potentially meaning Labour is on course to, sadly, win the next general election in 2024.
Breakthrough founder Alex Mays was a member of Grey Swans pension group for a while, but has only put a single policy for pension-age 60+ men and women in his general election manifesto. None of the other Grey Swans pension policies that would bring the votes of millions of pension-age and 1950s-to-1980s-born women, who are the majority of the age group and gender who turn out to vote, were included. The young, below the age of 40, vote less – and a quarter of them are not even registered on the electoral roll, so cannot vote.
The Over 50s Party knows Breakthrough cannot renationalise any public service without a huge cost (billions in compensation), by law of the profiteering private companies. The Over 50s Party knows how to renationalise at no cost at all. Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) president Ian Hodson supports the Over 50s Party. Yet everyone runs to parties with only policies for people under the age of 40, who have no hope at all of winning the next general election. We need a Clement Attlee/Nye Bevan government.
The Over 50s Party offers women rights’ activist Patsy Stevenson far more than the Breakthrough Party – by unravelling the discrimination embedded against women in the modern world, and against women aged over 50, from the ageist misogyny in all politics. The Over 50s Party is the greatest suffragette party in history.
When are you, Canary, going to write up an article about the Over 50s Party, so the people with real courage can bring a party into existence that has a real chance of winning a general election, please?
Christine Williams, via email
Admin, Grey Swans pension group
Imagine we are the SS Titanic UK. We all know that the captain is a corrupt idiot with a passion for crashing into icebergs. He’s spent most of the voyage trashing the lifeboats. He’s turned off the heating in third class. And worse, we cannot get rid of him and his motley crew for another 18 months.
Alan Marsden, via email
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