ANNAPOLIS – Governors and officials of six states met Friday and signed an agreement to cooperate in their efforts against outbreaks of Pfiesteria piscicida.
“Today, my fellow governors have joined me in pledging to work together to address the problem of Pfiesteria that threatens the health of our citizens, the health of our environment, and the health of our economies,” said Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
In addition to Glendening, the governors of Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware and state officials from Pennsylvania and North Carolina met on the front steps of the Governor’s Mansion at 2 p.m. to formally sign the agreement.
The ceremony was part of a three-hour regional governors’ summit called by Glendening, during which the officials heard from experts on Pfiesteria. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner represented the Clinton administration.
Under the “Agreement of Regional Cooperation on the Threat of Pfiesteria-like Organisms,” the six states agree to:
* Exchange scientific information on Pfiesteria and similar organisms;
* Warn each other of toxic Pfiesteria outbreaks;
* Encourage an “appropriate and coordinated federal response” to the problem; and
* Create a “regional technical team” to advise states on fighting toxic Pfiesteria.
Asked whether his decision not to close the Rappahannock despite evidence of Pfiesteria attacks on fish there signaled a different approach from Glendening, who has closed several Pfiesteria-infected rivers on the Eastern Shore, Gov. George Allen said that the situation in Virginia was less severe.
There have been no fish kills in Virginia, but watermen there have caught fish with lesions characteristic of the microbe.
Browner, in response to a question during a news conference, addressed the suspected link between the outbreaks and runoff from Eastern Shore poultry operations. She declined to make any direct connection, but said agricultural was a problem for the environment in general.
Glendening, meanwhile, said he had not considered seeking legislative action. “The only place I’ve seen it discussed was in the newspapers,” he said, referring to the manner in which Pfiesteria has dominated the local news.
Gov. Cecil H. Underwood of West Virginia, whose state is in the Chesapeake watershed but has shown no signs of toxic Pfiesteria, said that he agreed to attend the summit “because I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about it and to offer whatever help we could.”
Pfiesteria piscicida is a microbe that exists in many different forms. Some use toxins to attack the brain, liver, kidneys, skin and immune systems of their prey.
Recent fish kills on in Kings Creek and the Pocomoke River have been linked to Pfiesteria. Fish with lesions have been discovered in the Chicamacomico, the Nanticoke and the Rappahannock rivers. All are Eastern Shore waterways and Chesapeake tributaries.
Fish kills have also taken place in North Carolina, including one near Pamlico Sound which killed up to 1 billion Atlantic menhaden in 1987. Glendening compared these incidents to the “canary in the coal mine” whose death warned miners of poison gas. Glendening’s caution in dealing with microbe stems from public health concerns. Some people who have come into contact with Pfiesteria-infected waters have suffered from skin lesions, memory loss and inability to concentrate. -30-