Clinton administration promises to aid states in Pfiesteria outbreak Problems considered more likely this year

August 07, 1998|By Geoffrey C. Upton | Geoffrey C. Upton,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration vowed yesterday to respond swiftly to any outbreak of Pfiesteria on the East Coast and to work with state agencies on long-term strategies for cleaning up coastal and inland waters.

At a White House news conference, federal officials warned that outbreaks of Pfiesteria are especially likely this year in the wake of the El Nino weather pattern. The mild winter and early spring along the Eastern seaboard left behind warm, nutrient-rich water ideal for the proliferation of harmful algae, said D. James Baker of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Outbreaks of Pfiesteria are most likely when storms follow dry and stable weather, Baker said. Low winds help create the poorly flushed waters in which microorganisms grow, and storms add an influx of freshwater ripe with growth-stimulating nutrients.

The White House event was prompted by last week's fish kill in the Neuse River in eastern North Carolina, in which Pfiesteria is the suspected cause of death of about 200,000 fish.

White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, a North Carolina native, announced that the administration would direct an additional $365,000 to the state to collect data and further monitor the Pfiesteria outbreak there.

Bowles also announced a pending agreement to provide the state $221 million in federal funds over 10 to 15 years to help farmers with voluntary pollution control.

"This is another troubling sign that our coastal waters are in grave trouble," Bowles said of the North Carolina outbreak. "We are committed to meeting these challenges so that clean, healthy water for every American is not just a goal but a reality."

Carol Browner, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the recent Pfiesteria outbreaks are "wake-up calls" to the larger problem of water pollution, and called on Congress to restore funding to agencies under President Clinton's $2.3 billion Clean Water Action Plan.

"No parent should have to say to their child, 'You can't swim in your neighborhood river or lake,' or 'You can't eat that fish you just caught,' " Browner said. "We need to work together to ensure that future generations [have] clean and safe water."

Pub Date: 8/07/98

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