Only in the USA! (or … so what about rat’s piss?)

Some eight million gallons of treated drinking water – yes, you read it right eight million gallons – have been flushed down the drain in the US state of Oregon after a man urinated into a reservoir. Was it really necessary to empty an entire reservoir because eight fluid ounces of urine?

“Nobody wants to drink pee, and I don’t want to deal with the 100 people who would be unhappy that I’m serving them pee in their water.” said David Shaff, a water bureau official in Oregon’s biggest city Portland, after flushing away 32 million litres of water, whilst completely ignoring the fact that fish and animals are continually peeing into the reservoir. Mr. Shaff clearly shuns human piss in preference to that of bears or beavers. Mr. Shaff and his colleagues took the draconian action after security cameras caught a twenty-one year-old man urinating into an uncovered reservoir. The water had already been purified and was to go directly to homes, which only serves to make the decision to empty it even more curious as passing birds doubtless poop in the water too. (birds don’t urinate).

But such a situation would never arise in the UK, for instance, because while most people think of reservoirs as outdoor lakes which are lovely to walk the dog around, all of the reservoirs containing treated water are covered. While public health experts in the US said the urine in the reservoir was so diluted that it posed little health risk, the Oregon water chiefs did not want to take any chances. Plus, the cameras also showed something, as yet unidentified, being thrown into the water.

Toxicologist Prof Alan Boobis is “flabbergasted” by what he says is a complete overreaction. “In a healthy person, urine is sterile. It’s something we can say with confidence – it’s not going to have any impact on anyone whatsoever.” He says even if chemicals were in the urine, they would not be in large enough quantities to cause damage. “We are exposed to chemicals all the time but the intake is already below a level that’s going to cause harm. Urine contains a whole range of substances that the body has no need for. It might contain chemicals that are potentially harmful but the levels are going to be very low when expelled by the body, and even lower when diluted by water.”

Prof Boobis, from Imperial College London, made the observation that the reservoir would already have contained fish and animal urine. “The water was treated, so some bacterial agent was already killing things,” he said “If someone urinates in a swimming pool, it doesn’t become a problem, and that is a much smaller body of water.”

Thames Water, the UK’s largest water and sewerage company, says all of its treated water reservoirs are covered to protect water quality, and the water is treated to stringent UK and European quality standards. Sue Pennison, from the Drinking Water Inspectorate, says that since 1990, it has not been permitted in law for a treated water reservoir in the UK to be open to the elements. “This is in order to protect supplies from contamination from many hazards, of which this example (human) is just one,” she adds. She says reservoirs containing treated water are emptied for inspection and cleaning every 10 to 15 years.

The urine donator in the Oregon case said he had been out drinking with friends and thought the reservoir was a sewage treatment plant.


The lily was created on the third day, early in the morning when the Almighty was especially full of good ideas.

MICHAEL JEFFERSON-BROWN, lifelong gardener, professional nurseryman and gardening writer.

The PM ‘Privacy Commission’ debate on Radio 4

With regard to the matter of super-injunctions and privacy, I am not sure what Hugh Tomlinson QC was referring to on the feature in Radio 4’s PM programme entitled ‘PM’s Privacy Commission’ on Monday, but during a dialoge between him and Eddie Mair slightly over thirty-nine minutes into the programme he said: “The public is being mislead because [they are being told] people have sponsorship agreements that have family man images … well that’s just untrue. Such agreements don’t actually exist.” He was, I believe, alluding to the suggestion that the public make the assumption that a high-profile personality being paid by sponsorship had to have a clean image; Mr. Tomlinson appears to be saying that no such image agreements exist. My own opinion is that Mr. Tomlinson’s two sentences constitute, linguistically, an appalling, unintelligible string of words. Had I not inserted my own interpretation in parentheses the quote would have been almost completely worthless.

Assuming that he is saying that there are no legal agreements concerning good behaviour and acceptable ‘family man’ standards concerning those receiving sponsorship, then it begs the question why Tiger Woods had his fingers so badly burnt for behaviour not dissimilar to that of Ryan Giggs. Ian Carter,  BBC 5 Live‘s golf correspondent said on his blog when Woods fell from grace: “How humiliating for someone who until just over a fortnight ago was among the most visibly assured human beings on the planet. Now the sponsors who pay him millions seem to have stopped showing his image in association with their products on television. ” It would seem that the ‘family man image’ codicil applied to Tiger Woods.

It would not be difficult to postulate that the ‘ordinary Joe on the street’ pays good money to buy a football shirt for his son with Ryan Giggs’ name on it because he believes that he is a good role model. I know that standards of decency have slipped in the last twenty years, but I am making the assumption that the same ‘Joe’ would not feel so good about purchasing that same football shirt this week. The difference is between being in posession of the facts and being under an illusion. I am no legal expert, but to my layman’s understanding, wilfully colluding in hiding such detail – it would be called insider trading in the city – is tantamount to fraud (though clearly not so legally).

Aren’t the public entitled to know about the role models that earn vast fortunes in sponsorship because they have an allegedly clean image? Michael Barrymore paid a high price for his misdemeanours, despite the fact that he has seemingly not committed any criminal offence. Neither did he get his brother’s fiancee pregnant. But then I suppose he wouldn’t, would he?

An open letter to Norman Baker MP

Dear Mr. Baker,

As you may well be aware, The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill was introduced to the House of Lords last week which aims to reduce the power and influence of sharia tribunals and courts in Britain; as an atheist and ex-Muslim I am a supporter of ‘One Law for All’ and the National Secular Society, who have spoken out in its support as it signifies an important recognition of the injustices being perpetrated against women in religious tribunals in Britain. It further represents a strong assertion of the value of a single legal system and the protection of the rights and equality of women. Read more about the bill here.
Debate at House of Commons concerning Sharia
I am writing to you as my Member of Parliament to ask that you attend a discussion on sharia, and its practice under the power of the Arbitration Act 1996.  I believe that you were sent a copy of the book ‘Sharia Law in Britain; A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights’.   Here is the copy of the letter sent jointly with the National Secular Society.
I would strongly urge you to attend this important debate. As an ex-Muslim I am well aware that Sharia operates in a way which is not in the public interest and, indeed, conflicts with the Human Rights Act as it discriminates against women and children in belief and practices. For example, under sharia, the testimony of a woman is worth only half of a man, and fathers get child custody rights regardless of the circumstances of the case. I would also like to highlight what seems to be a growing campaign among sharia advocates to effectively decriminalise domestic violence for Muslims in Britain.
The discussion will take place in the House of Commons from 6-8pm on Tuesday June 28 and will be chaired by Jim Fitzpatrick MP.
Henry Page

If that’s a cup cake it must be a carrot cake!

Agent Orange

If that's a cup cake it must be carrot cake!

Rugby star Gavin Henson is to appear in a new TV dating show on Channel 5, where he hopes to meet “the right girl”. Henson, who plays for the Welsh national team, is separated from the singer Charlotte Church. Channel 5 said viewers should “expect flirting, bitching and heartfelt emotion” as 25 contestants compete to win his heart. Henson said: “I’m so excited to have been cast as The Bachelor as I really feel the time is right for me to find a girl to hopefully spend the rest of my life with. The Welsh Rugby Union said he was fulfilling a work commitment made before he was picked for the squad. Apparently he will be ‘The Bachelor’ in the programme. I wonder if his ‘maiden’ will be Katie Price? Heaven help us if so. Her swathed in white would be so unsuitable; white and orange just don’t really go together …


Grieve for Giggs’ image …

The revelation that the Manchester United player, Ryan Giggs, paid for his sister-in-law’s abortion of their child blows apart any justification for the ‘super-injunction’ that shrouded Giggs’ sordid private life, protecting his precious image and keeping hundreds of thousands of fans unaware of his disgusting behaviour. I am not one given to moralising, but the question has to be asked: Why did a judge think that it was right to protect Ryan Giggs from the furore that would be unleashed on him had the world known that he made his brother’s fiancée pregnant? Giggs holds the Order of the British Empire (OBE), is this worthy behaviour of such a decoration?

Only last week the UK Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve MP, castigated internet users for breaking court injunctions saying that he would reluctantly but inevitably institute proceedings against those who flouted the law. They would, he said, be in for a “rude shock”  He was referring to possible imprisonment of those who transgressed injunctions on twitter. We should, therefore, analyse who has recently been ‘outed’ despite the protection of a super-injunction: Andrew Marr, the BBC anchorman withdrew his legal protection before his extra-marital affair was exposed; the reviled former bank chief, Sir Fred Goodwin had his affair with a colleague at the Royal Bank of Scotland successfully covered up thanks to judicial protection by super-injunction.

Grieve has generally voted against gay rights in Parliament, although he did support civil partnerships. Is the coalition government proud of its Attorney-General in his robust defence of the legal shrouding of their less-than-savoury personal lives? What does this say about Mr. Grieve’s history of voting against equality for gay men?