Sealife science

The D&S Times has quoted Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen as blasting the Labour party and eco activists, urging people to follow the science regarding recent crustacean deaths off the coastline.

Quite right. Given that he will be most interested to read the latest assessment from Newcastle University’s press office. It is as follows.

"Dr Gary Caldwell, Senior Lecturer in Applied Marine Biology, said: 'Our research has shown that there is no doubt that pyridine is highly toxic to crabs. The levels of pyridine we tested were below the levels recorded by the Environment Agency from the bodies of the dead crabs and yet we saw it caused death in the edible crabs.

'The next step for our research was to explain the scale of the deaths over such a large stretch of the coastline.'

To evaluate the scale of the deaths, Dr Miguel-Angel Morales, a physical oceanographer in the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Newcastle University, combined the toxicity data with computer simulations of the North Sea currents and tides during and after the autumn dredging activity.

The modelling showed that pyridine would be quickly transported along the coastline, with areas around Hartlepool and Redcar worst affected, with the potential to kill approximately half of the crab population after only 24 hours of exposure. Levels of pyridine sufficient to kill approximately ten per cent of the population within three days were predicted to reach as far south as Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay.

The timeline of the transport of pyridine along the coast closely matched the timeline of mortalities reported by the fishing community and the general public.

So Mr Houchen, we now have the science you wish us to follow, what next?

Richard Baker, Middleton One Row.

Leaves on the line

FURTHER to the article “New tech rolled out to prevent leaf delays” (D&S Times, Oct 7), can it be confirmed that the new water spraying treatment being employed by Northern, is in fact, additional to the traditional high pressure water jetting and not instead of?

After having many years involvement with the rail head treatment trains in the 1990s to 2003, the optimum methodology was always high-pressure water jetting.

The two trains that were used in the north, in October, November and into December if necessary, were designed to jet the rail head at 3,000psi and they were, ultimately, replaced by a new fleet of vehicles, known as MPVs, that were designed/built/operated by a combination of German, French and British technology, and that I recall would jet at, in excess of, 10,000psi.

To put this into perspective I put 35psi into my car tyres.

It was always a health and safety instruction that you did not put your fingers etc. under the jets during static tests to check the output pressure, as this could cause serious harm.

It's also of interest to see that the routes where the new spraying technology is to be deployed are a selection of exactly the same routes that were being treated more than 20 years ago.

It appears that, over the years since I left the industry, the focus for rail head treatment has changed from the routes like the Tyne Valley, Esk Valley and York-Malton branch, to the inter-city routes like the East Coast Main Line, although I have no recollection of there being any history of leaf fall problems on those major routes.

What hasn't been mentioned in the article is the significant problem that leaf fall contamination causes to the local signalman, but that's a story for later perhaps.

Ray Slack, Stamford Bridge, York.

Environment hypocrisy

ENVIRONMENTAL protests dominate our media. Complaints that the carbon footprint of motor vehicles and livestock farms is killing the planet.

Domesticated livestock should be consigned to virtual extinction as soon as possible.

Yet I hear no mention of a policy that would have an impact equivalent to removing at least one quarter of the motor vehicles from our roads; and would have minimal negative practical consequences.

Unfortunately, a down side involves millions of people giving up something that they hold dear.

As ever it is much easier to ask other people to give something up for the benefit of the world rather than for us to individually make a real sacrifice.

In fact, I suspect the policy is too painful, if only emotionally, to contemplate for the majority of people. So safer not to mention it and concentrate on victimising the small group of livestock farmers for all our problems.

So, what is this wondrous and yet most diabolical policy – ban the keeping of pets.

There are about 34 million pets kept in this country, which dwarfs the number of cattle, sheep or pigs kept by the livestock farmers, if not quite up to the 40 million licensed motor vehicles.

Of these pets about 13 million are dogs.

Several reports have highlighted the carbon footprint of keeping a dog.

At least one report suggests that keeping just one large pet dog has, mostly because of its necessary food production, a carbon footprint equivalent to running a small motor vehicle. So easy to see the carbon savings to be made.

I am not anti-dog and/or pets. I have kept dogs for many years and still have one. What I am is anti-hypocrisy.

If we want to tell farmers to get rid of their livestock should we really be having a "national dog day," have "dog friendly" signs everywhere you turn and generally encouraging people to keep them. Should we not be pointing the accusatory finger for the pollution they are causing as we do with farmers?

Name and address supplied.

Child poverty

THE Westminster media storm around Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak has drawn attention even further away from the plight of children in poor families.

This winter, more than a million people will be pushed into poverty by rising food and energy prices, and the Resolution Foundation say poorer households will face “a catastrophically bad year”.

The Trussell Trust food bank charity is making an emergency appeal for donations. The Child Poverty Action Group reports that one in three school-age children in England living in poverty miss out on free school meals despite their families struggling with the cost of living.

As a consequence of long-term government under-funding, reading ability among seven-year-olds from poor families fell at double the rate of those from affluent homes.

The NHS already gets less per capita than in 2010, schools already spend less per pupil, roads have deeper potholes, and social care has all but collapsed.

Meanwhile, our newest Prime Minister – the fourth in three years – is a multi-millionaire and ex hedge fund manager who seems determined to make matters worse.

During the previous-previous Tory leadership campaign he said: “We inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone. I started the work of undoing that.”

This reveals the Conservative Manifesto "levelling-up" commitments in 2019 as a cynical sham to attract votes.

After 12 years in power, the Conservatives have run out of ideas and competence and we deserve a change. I have written to urge my MP to support an immediate general election.

Dr Peter Williams, Malton.

Election call

SO, after three Prime Ministers, three Home Secretaries and four Chancellors this year, we are promised a stable government.

Let’s hope Rishi Sunak can make it work, because the country can’t survive another fiscal event that pushes up interest rates on national debt and on mortgages.

Where does Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison stand? She’s been a staunch supporter, first of Boris Johnson, then of Liz Truss. Is she now a staunch supporter of Mr Sunak?

That would be the sign of the supreme opportunist, or is she going to sit on her hands until she knows whether Mr Sunak will last?

Either way, we can expect Ms Davison to keep a much lower public profile than during her first two years.

Then she seemed to be running a publicity campaign to find the best pub/cafe/chippie/litter bin (delete as appropriate) almost every week.

Now that her constituents are focused on just keeping fed, keeping warm and surviving, she’s gone very quiet.

After so many changes at the top it would surely be democratic to have a general election now.

In 2005 Tony Blair announced his decision to stand down part way through the coming parliament, giving Gordon Brown a mandate to govern for the rest, but Rishi Sunak has no mandate.

Phil Hunt, Barningham.

Ex-PMs allowance

I DID not know, and I am certain many voters did not know that ex-prime ministers get £115,000 per year for life.

This is regardless of whether or not they did well or badly.

I think many of us would agree that the last two incumbents were a poor example of steady government. Nevertheless, they walk off with the leaving present of tax payers' money for life.

This would matter less if people of ages were not desperate and frightened of the coming winter.

May I suggest that prime ministers past and present donate their entitlement to a charity of their choice. Shelter for the homeless, or hot meals for children and the elderly? Just a thought.

Alexandra Bailey, Darlington.

Unknown way ahead

THE selection of Rishi Sunak to lead at this difficult moment for the Conservatives puts me in mind of a curious incident during my Territorial Army career.

I was by one of several vehicles in a German field when I was called over to the command group. Here I was handed a map and told I’d be leading our convoy to its destination, moving out immediately.

I got no response to the question “where are we now?”, transparently because no one knew. Fortunately, from setting off in a more or less random direction, I soon spotted enough clues to put us on the right track.

To this day I couldn’t say whether I was picked more for my known map-reading skills or my suitability to take the blame.

John Riseley, Harrogate.

Halloween warning

LEAVING bowls of sweets on your doorstep might seem neighbourly on Halloween, but it can have deadly consequences.

Chocolate, nuts, raisins, and xylitol sweetener – as well as wrappers – are toxic for dogs and cats.

So, make sure this is a happy All Hallows’ Eve by keeping all treats indoors and out of reach of animals and ensuring your guests know not to share them with animal companions.

A steady stream of doorbells, knocks, and trick-or-treaters in terrifying costumes can leave even the most placid of animals frightened and likely to bolt or bite.

Walk dogs on a lead well before dark and don’t leave animals in the garden.

Sadly, they are easy prey for devilish pranks and cruelty, so the safest place for them is in a quiet room, away from the door.

Other frightfully important tips include keeping animals far away from jack-o’-lanterns, candles, balloons, and streamers, which can burn or choke them and may contain toxic inks.

And while creepy costumes are all part of the fun, dressing up your animal companion causes them stress and impairs their ability to see, move, and even breathe.

Leave the costumes to the humans!

You can find more tips on how to ensure your animal companions have a happy Halloween at

Jennifer White, Media and Communications Manager, PETA.