Nutrient levels don't cause toxic Pfiesteria outbreaks...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 22, 2000

Nutrient levels don't cause toxic Pfiesteria outbreaks

Thanks to The Sun for Joel McCord's excellent article, which shed enough light to reveal that darkness still obscures our understanding of Pfiesteria and the role it may or may not have played in the 1997 fish kills ("Scientists differ on role of Pfiesteria," Feb. 7).

I would, however, like to correct one misconception in Mr. McCord's otherwise fine article.

The article said, as the press often does, that "ripe" conditions for toxic Pfiesteria occur when "warm, slow-moving water is overloaded with nutrients."

But nutrient levels in the Pocomoke River at the time of the fish kills, according to the state's own water quality data, were not elevated and were no higher than they had been for the previous 15 years.

Also, experiments at the University of North Carolina have shown that elevated nutrient levels in Neuse River water (where fish kills have also been attributed to Pfiesteria) caused blooms of cryptomonads and cyanobacteria, not Pfiesteria.

Indeed, Maryland's blue-ribbon Citizens Pfiesteria Action Commission concluded that nutrient levels were irrelevant in causing blooms of Pfiesteria. Toxic outbreaks can occur, the commission reported, "even if nutrient concentrations are relatively low."

The commission also stated unequivocally that there is "no demonstrable cause and effect linkage" between nutrients and toxic outbreaks of Pfiesteria.

The desire to link the fish kills to nutrient enrichment, it turned out, was tied not to sound science, but to an antipathy to the Delmarva poultry industry.

But there is no reason to continue to blame nutrients -- and, by inference, the poultry industry that allegedly is their source -- for creating an environment "ripe" for toxic blooms of Pfiesteria. It's just not so.

Richard A. Halpern

Churchville, Va.

The writer is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute Center for Global Food Issues.

Support for small business is welcome and wise

Mayor Martin O'Malley's early show of support for small and minority owned businesses is extremely welcome ("O'Malley defends set-aside program," Jan. 30). It is encouraging that the mayor understands the importance of this sector and is willing to fight on its behalf.

With small and minority owned businesses creating more than 80 percent of the city's jobs, the mayor's desire to help them thrive shows wisdom and foresight.

Mr. O'Malley's understanding of the need to create an office to oversee concerns of small and minority-owned businesses -- one separate from the work the Baltimore Development Corp. does for larger ones -- deserves special note.

The challenges will be many for the mayor in the weeks and months to come: From trying to save the minority set-aside law, to helping small businesses being displaced by the west side development, to getting the local banking community to live up to its Community Reinvestment Act commitment.

Here's hoping the mayor continues to fight the good fight.

Edwin V. Avent

Baltimore

The writer is a member of the mayor's small and minority owned business transition team.

Need to preserve west side merits continued attention

Please continue to put the spotlight on the protection of the irreplaceable historic buildings on Baltimore's west side ("Will Baltimore let wrecking ball knock out more of its history?" Feb. 12).

The plight of the shop owners there, and the preservation of this part of Baltimore's heritage, are the concern of many of The Sun's readers.

Sister Marie Vincent

Baltimore

Real disgrace is failing to accept responsibility

Another person was shot and killed by a police officer while engaging in illegal activity, and the family of the suspect says it's a disgrace ("O'Malley laments police shootings," Feb. 7).

Although the suspect was not armed, he resisted arrest and struggled with the officer. The suspect could have gotten the officer's gun, and perhaps this thought occurred to the officer.

Most citizens would consider it ridiculous to expect any police officer in this situation to debate the character of a suspect, or to guess exactly how far he might go to keep from being arrested.

Apparently, the family of the suspect is not among these citizens.

Too many people go through life making excuses, blaming others and refusing to accept responsibility for their own actions. This is the true disgrace.

Patricia Thomas

Middle River

The Sun is out-of-step with anti-abortion trend

Will The Sun ever come into tune with changing attitudes on abortion?

It prints articles, editorials and cartoons that pretend that the Republican Party is the only one with proponents of both sides of the issue. Does The Sun believe that pro-life Democrats don't exist?

Perhaps The Sun should follow the lead of the Washington Post and point out the Al Gore's stance on the issue changed from the belief that "abortion is arguably the taking of a human life" to "I've always been for a woman's right to choose."

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