"New" Source For Water Pollution
Note: When I was having so much back pain that I couldn't do much blogging, I saved a stack of newspaper and news-magazine articles which I found interesting. The following blog is based on one of those hoarded articles. All emphases are mine.
Photo from the Washington Post
Sometimes a story comes along and makes the reader say, "Duh!" Such a story appeared on the front page of the September 28, 2006 edition of the Washington Post. Excerpt from "Wildlife Waste Is Major Water Polluter, Studies Say":
"Scientists have run high-tech tests on harmful bacteria in local rivers and streams [in Virginia and Maryland] and found that many of the germs -- and in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, a majority of them -- come from wildlife dung. The strange proposition that nature is apparently polluting itself has created a serious conundrum for government officials charged with cleaning up the rivers.Not serious, you say? Sometimes waxing eloquent and even calling upon historical background (which is, of course, unverifiable), some animal lovers refuse to accept the data from the study and want to discount the findings:
"Part of the problem lies with the unnaturally high populations of deer, geese and raccoons living in modern suburbs and depositing their waste there. But officials say it would be nearly impossible, and wildly unpopular, to kill or relocate enough animals to make a dent in even that segment of the pollution.
"That leaves scientists and environmentalists struggling with a more fundamental question: How clean should we expect nature to be? In certain cases, they say, the water standards themselves might be flawed, if they appear to forbid something as natural as wild animals leaving their dung in the woods."
"'If you were here when Captain John Smith rode up the Anacostia River [in 1608], and you tested the water, it would probably have a good bit of coliform in it' because of wildlife,' said Robert Boone, president of an environmental group called the Anacostia Watershed Society."Maybe so. But throughout D.C. and the close-in suburbs here, we have deer, geese, muskrats, raccoons, and a variety of other wild animals leaving their little gifts. According to the article, such leavings are having an impact beyond the nuisance of dealing with goose droppings in the area's swimming pools and on golf courses, cemetery markers, and our freshly washed vehicles:
"In the Washington area, violations of the bacteria standards have put more than two dozen streams, including the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, on the federal 'impaired waters' list. That means they do not meet the ideal conditions for swimming and need cleaning up....What to do?
"In the Potomac and the Anacostia, for instance, more than half of the bacteria in the streams came from wild creatures. EPA documents show that similar problems were found in Maryland, where wildlife were more of a problem than humans and livestock combined in the Magothy River, and in Northern Virginia tributaries such as Accotink Creek, where geese were responsible for 24 percent of bacteria, as opposed to 20 percent attributable to people.
"'Wildlife consistently came up as being . . . a major player,' said Peter Gold, an environmental scientist for the EPA.
"To some scientists, this makes perfect sense. They point out that a few wild animals have managed to thrive in the environments that humans create: Deer feast on suburban flowers; raccoons raid backyard pet-food bowls. Nonmigratory Canada geese, descended in part from geese brought to this area as live hunting decoys, have fallen so much in love with golf courses and groomed city parks that their East Coast population now stands at 1.1 million.
"It could be the ultimate irony of people's impact on nature that the entire system has changed so radically that wild animals now degrade their own environment. More animals means more bacteria-laden waste. Some of that is swept by storm water into rivers and streams."
"[I]t is one thing to blame wild animals for pollution and another to figure out how to get them to stop....Thinning the ranks of Bambis or Rascals is, to say the least, distasteful to animal lovers. All those years of Disney movies, National Geographic, and Animal Kingdom have caused a lot of people to anthropomorphize and idealize living with wild creatures.
"[Scientists] determined that there needed to be an 83 percent reduction in the amount of waste that wildlife left directly in streams."
"But even the scientists who make these determinations say such a large reduction is unlikely. Although Maryland does kill a few hundred geese annually to reduce water pollution, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month relaxed its rules to make it easier to kill geese for public-health reasons, no officials in this area have plans to kill or remove wildlife on a scale large enough to make a difference to the waterways."
The final conundrum, according to the last pargraph of the article:
"'Has anybody studied about fish?' quipped David Feld, national program director for a Falls Church-based group called GeesePeace, which seeks nonlethal ways of controlling goose populations. 'How much fish contribute?'"I can see the line forming for the grants now, as various groups apply for funds to conduct studies as to how much fish contribute to water pollution.