Is the obvious being denied in Eastern Shore fish kills?

September 13, 1997

YOUR SEPT. 5 editorial statement regarding Pfiesteria fish kills that ''no scientist or government can solve this problem'' ranks among the most spectacularly wrong-headed opinions ever printed by The Sun.

It is clear to everyone except those who wish to bury the truth that the high nutrient content of animal feces entering the water is the highly likely suspect in the Pfiesteria piscicida outbreaks.

In North Carolina it comes from the many super-size hog farms around the waterfront; in Maryland it seems related to high-nitrogen chicken manure used as a fertilizer along the narrow Pocomoke River that is slow to flush from tidal action.

Blind denial of this cause-and-effect relationship has caused the problem to linger and grow for 10 years in Carolina. We must do better here.

Throughout this episode, the performance of our state's Department of Natural Resources has been disgusting.

First, despite a growing mountain of evidence, the department resisted even admitting that Pfiesteria was the cause of the fish lesions.

Now we are told that there is no way of verifying that animal feces is the culprit. What would we do without these staunch environmental guardians?

For shame.

It's all doubly sad because it would be so easy simply to do the right thing. In Maryland's case, with the problem confined at present to areas of Somerset County, it wouldn't even cost very much.

A reasonable course of action would be to simply halt the use of chicken manure fertilizer in that area, take measures to reduce farm runoff in general and monitor the the all but certain effect on correcting the problem.

James W. O'Reilly

Monkton

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The Pocomoke fish lesion problem affects the economy of a much greater area than the seven-mile stretch of the river.

I wish to express the sincere thanks of our local citizens to both the federal and Maryland state governments for their impressive response to the problems of the river.

It is awe-inspiring to a layman, such as me, to see so many professional experts having diversified backgrounds and education come together as a smooth-running team to work on a common problem.

The on-site work station in Shelltown, the problem location, required much planning, expense and hard work to assemble and now provides detailed current information. The work station is just one example of the teamwork shown.

We earnestly hope the lives of those who live near or work on the Pocomoke River will soon return to normal. If dedicated teamwork is the answer, they soon will.

Curt Lippoldt

Pocomoke City

The writer is mayor of Pokomoke City.

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It amazes me that the state of Maryland has offered to pay poultry farmers to erect the infrastructure necessary to prevent manure-laden run-off from entering the water.

Seems to me that if Perdue and Tyson want to buy the farmers' product, they should be willing to pay a fair price -- a price that reflects the cost of doing business in such a fragile environment.

Personally, I am not willing to sacrifice the bay so that fast-food joints can continue to sell cheap chicken nuggets worldwide.

Pamela M. Cobo

Bel Air

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The Aug. 29 Sun presented a front-page headline and an op-ed article of habitat contrasts.

Dan Fesperman and Marcia Myers reported on widening fish ills and kills in the Chesapeake Bay's strained habitat.

Dennis Avery's op-ed presented excellent land and air habitat developments, focusing on intelligent conservation and biomass strategies. These are noble pursuits. We all want improved land and air, too.

How much additional phosphate fertilizers must the land require to achieve higher-yield crop and wood pulp biomass at the expense of stream, river and bay runoff? Runoff has provided the present smorgasbord of nutrient flows into the tributaries of the bay, coaxing the ills and kills.

We must focus on specific land, air and water habitat issues and their solutions.

We must also remember the bigger picture and the impact of our best environmental intentions from one dynamic habitat to the next with balance and moderation.

Michael P. Panopoulos

Timonium

Pub Date: 9/13/97

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