This is an amazing documentary from the NFB, and like all NFB movies, it’s available free online.

Crapshoot: The Gamble with Our Wastes is all about Canada’s sewage treatment systems, the horrific state they’re in, the damage they do, and what we can do about them. Anyone who’s seen many posts from this blog, even recently, knows there’s far too many useful things to do with our solid wastes to be squandering them in this way. Especially if it’s making people sick.

A single human being can put out pounds of high-nitrogen wastes in a single day. Not just “humanure”, but urine too – it’s so high in ntrogen that it needs to be diluted around 10:1 before it can be given to plants. Biological systems can produce soil, fertilizer (solid or liquid), energy (methane, hydrogen and electricity), fresh water, plants and fish. And they’re far safer if run well. These systems can be put together on the household or neighbourhood scale very easily, and return their benefits directly with few of the enormous transporation costs which plague our current system. They can be built with very simple materials like plastic basins or local clay.

You can build a composting toilet with plywood and a bucket. Keep a bag of sawdust on hand – it cuts down the smell and provides an optimal carbon/nitrogen mix for composting. I’ve been to more gatherings and blockades in the woods than I can count, and I’m very familiar with the potential dangers of poop. But I’ve never seen a composting setup at one of these fail, yet the alternatives (usually random shallow pit-latrines) regularly cause outbreaks of nasty parasites. If you ever want to witness how this kind of outbreak work (you don’t), go to any West Coast Rainbow Gathering.

Hamilton combines storm runoff with sewage, and thanks to our industrial nature, this leads to some very nasty discharge (which has often been tested at hundreds of times the legal limit of e-coli) and biosolids sludge given to farmers. And then there’s the folks who want to incinerate it…. Don’t get me wrong – there’s some very cool incineration technologies out there like microwave plasma gassification which are extremely efficient and clean. But sending more organic mass up into the atmosphere, even as relatively “clean” c02, still has horrible concequences *(to say nothing of ailing soils which need it). Like all large-scale centralized systems, our sewage treatment infrastructure is an epidemic waiting to happen. Not only do we have a thousand better, cleaner and cheaper options at our fingertips, but there is a very dire need to do it.

If not for the Earth, then for the sake of the oft-flooding Red Hill Expressway.