WASHINGTON – A veteran river watcher told Congress on Thursday the answer to solving the region’s Pfiesteria crisis is simple: Clean up the water.
After hours of rhetoric from bureaucrats and scientists, Rick Dove, who monitors North Carolina’s Pfiesteria-plagued Neuse River for an environmental group, said his experiences have given him the answer to the problem.
“We need to get the pollution reduced in our bodies of water. That’s the real problem,” said Dove, who has lived on the river for more than 20 years. “We may even be able to get Pfiesteria reduced without understanding what the (cause of Pfiesteria) is.”
Dove told the House Resources subcommittee on fisheries, conservation, wildlife and oceans that indirect sources of water pollution – especially agricultural waste from big hog and poultry farms – must be federally regulated.
Researchers agree that nutrient runoff from farm waste is a leading pollutant of water.
“The toxic Pfiesteria complex … thrives in areas affected by nutrient pollution,” said Joann Burkholder, the North Carolina scientist who discovered Pfiesteria.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kent, led what is becoming a familiar style inquiry into the complexities of the microbe that turns toxic for unknown reasons and kills fish and makes humans sick.
“This phenomenon is serious because it has caused physical harm in humans,” Gilchrest said.
Although they met for the several hours, the participants agreed on the same things they have in other meetings on the subject: the need to provide money for research, to coordinate researchers and to coordinate agency efforts to work together to solve the mystery of the sometimes toxic microbe.
“Inadequate funding for research has been a restraining factor,” Burkholder said.
But according to Dove, governments can research the scientific causes all they want, but that still won’t address the root of the problem.
“We’ve lost fish for a long time on the Neuse,” Dove said. “There’s no doubt in the people’s mind who live on the Neuse, pollution is the problem.”