WASHINGTON – Gov. Parris Glendening on Thursday urged federal lawmakers to help in Maryland’s fight against the fish- killing microorganism Pfiesteria piscidida.
“The battle against Pfiesteria is bigger than one state can handle alone. We need your help,” the governor told a House subcommittee.
Glendening praised Congress for taking “good first steps.” The House of Representatives approved $7 million for researching Pfiesteria-related illness and lawmakers are considering another measure that would provide $3 million to study the microorganism.
“It’s not just about money. It’s the federal government saying we’re prepared to be a partner over the long run,” Glendening told the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on human resources.
Lawmakers and scientists praised Glendening’s response to Pfiesteria in comparison to other states. Maryland moved swiftly to close down parts of three Eastern Shore rivers. Virginia has not closed any rivers despite evidence of Pfiesteria and critics said North Carolina was slow to respond.
“North Carolina experienced this first and maybe didn’t handle it as well as it should have,” said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., the subcommittee chairman.
“A state like Maryland has learned from this,” Shays said. “Maryland is the new kid on the block and they are pursuing this more aggressively,”
Joann Burkholder, the first scientist to link Pfiesteria to fish kills, chronicled the trouble that she had with North Carolina state health agencies when trying to share her findings.
“I was told that I would need 10 years of data before I could prove that Pfiesteria kills fish,” Burkholder said.
Virginia Health Commissioner Randolph Gordon defended his state’s response, saying there is no direct scientific link between the microbe and human health problems.
But Dr. Glenn Morris of the University of Maryland School of Medicine disagreed.
“What we have is a circumstantial chain of evidence,” Morris said. “It is reasonable … to say that the chain goes back to Pfiesteria.”