SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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OVERSIGHT HEARING ON PFIESTERIA AND ITS IMPACT ON OUR FISHERY RESOURCES
SUBCOMMITTEE ON FISHERIES CONSERVATION, WILDLIFE AND OCEANS
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
OCTOBER 9, 1997, WASHINGTON, DC.
Serial No. 10563
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrinted for the use of the Committee on Resources
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
KEN CALVERT, California
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
LINDA SMITH, Washington
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
WILLIAM M. (MAC) THORNBERRY, Texas
JOHN SHADEGG, Arizona
JOHN E. ENSIGN, Nevada
ROBERT F. SMITH, Oregon
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCHRIS CANNON, Utah
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
RICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MICHAEL D. CRAPO, Idaho
GEORGE MILLER, California
EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
OWEN B. PICKETT, Virginia
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
MAURICE D. HINCHEY, New York
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
SAM FARR, California
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCADAM SMITH, Washington
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
CHRIS JOHN, Louisiana
DONNA CHRISTIAN-GREEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
LLOYD A. JONES, Chief of Staff
ELIZABETH MEGGINSON, Chief Counsel
CHRISTINE KENNEDY, Chief Clerk/Administrator
JOHN LAWRENCE, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey, Chairman
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
MICHAEL D. CRAPO, Idaho
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
SAM FARR, California
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
HARRY BURROUGHS, Staff Director
JOHN RAYFIELD, Legislative Staff
CHRISTOPHER STEARNS, Democratic Counsel
C O N T E N T S
Hearing held October 9, 1997
Statement of Members:
Castle, Hon. Michael N., a Representative in Congress from the State of Delaware
Clayton, Hon. Eva M., a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina
Prepared statement of
Gilchrest, Hon. Wayne T., a Representative in Congress from the State of Maryland
Jones, Hon. Walter B., a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina
Young, Hon. Don, a Representative in Congress from the State of Alaska, prepared statement of
Statement of Witnesses:
Anderson, Donald M., Senior Scientist, Department of Biology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, prepared statement of
Baden, Daniel, Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Science Center
Prepared statement of
Boesch, Donald, President, Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement of
Burkholder, JoAnn M., Associate Professor, North Carolina State University
Prepared statement of
Clark, Jamie Rappaport, Director, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Dept. of the Interior, prepared statement of
Dove, Rick, Neuse River Keeper, Neuse River Foundation
Prepared statement of
Garcia, Terry D., Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Department of Commerce, accompanied by Donald Scavia, Director, NOAA Coastal Ocean Program, and John Steven Ramsdell, Associate Professor, Marine Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina
Prepared statement of Terry D. Garcia
Griffin, John, Secretary, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Prepared statement of
Immanuel, Henry Werner Meseke, Elliott, Maryland, prepared statement of
McDevitt, Wayne, Secretary, North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources
Prepared statement of
Perciasepe, Robert, Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, prepared statement of
Schaefer, Dr. Mark, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water & Science and Acting Director, U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior, prepared statement of
Tulou, Christophe A. G., Secretary, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
Prepared statement of
Wright, L. Donelson, Dean and Director, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, accompanied by Eugene M. Burreson, Director for Research and Advisory Services, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement of L. Donelson Wright
OVERSIGHT HEARING ON PFIESTERIA AND ITS IMPACT ON OUR FISHERY RESOURCES
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9, 1997
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans, Committee on Resources, Washington, DC.
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:08 a.m., in Room 1334, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Jim Saxton [chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Members present: Representatives Saxton, Gilchrest, and Jones.
Also present: Representatives Clayton and Castle.
Mr. SAXTON. [presiding] Good morning. The Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans will come to order.
The purpose of this oversight hearing is to discuss the status of the Federal research incentives into Pfiesteria and the need for further investigation. The Subcommittee will also focus on scope of the harmful algal blooms and marine toxins that have been identified in other regions.
In particular, today's witnesses have been requested to address the scope of these harmful alga blooms, what ocean and estuarine conditions are necessary for the proliferation of these organisms, what ocean conditions are required for the organisms to enter the toxic phase, the ability of scientists to detect or predict outbreaks of these organisms, and whether a sufficient amount of research is being conducted to formulate solutions to these problems.
In addition, the Subcommittee will focus on the current coordination among Federal agencies and with State agencies in plans for future joint efforts, especially among researchers. Federal resources are already being targeted to address the Pfiesteria outbreak, and I look forward to hearing from our distinguished witnesses on how Federal funding can be effectively used to deal with these marine organisms.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Ranking Member isn't here at the moment, although I am sure he will be shortly, and I know he is interested in this issue. Let me turn at this point to the gentleman from the eastern shore of Maryland, Mr. Gilchrest.
STATEMENT OF HON. WAYNE T. GILCHREST, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MARYLAND
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the fact that you're holding this hearing, and I also welcome all of the witnesses. We look forward to your testimony.
This is a phenomenon that is serious in that it has caused physical harm to humans, it's my understanding. It's also serious from an economic perspective, but I would also comment that I think it is fascinating that this phenomenon has drawn such national attention, so that many more people other than the scientists in a lab will have some understanding of the nature of the mechanics of natural processes, and how they work in their natural habitat, and then how they work in their natural habitat impacted by human activity. And it's my understanding as a nonscientist that the potential impacts and the potential changes in natural organisms is, from a molecular structure, very difficult to predict, and probably there's an infinite number of possibilities.
So as we deal with this as nonscientists, we hope that you will help us draw a clearer picture of what we as people can do to try to resolve these issues, reduce human activity that perhaps has caused these, and head down the right direction. So we appreciate the fact that we know all of you are very busy, and we appreciate that you have come in here to address us today.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you. I thank the Ranking Member.
Let me just ask unanimous consent at this point that two Members who are here this morning who are not members of this panellet me ask unanimous consent that Mr. Castle and Ms. Clayton be invited and permitted to join us on the panel.
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Mr. Jones, would you like to make your opening comments?
STATEMENT OF HON. WALTER B. JONES, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Mr. JONES. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd join and associate myself with the statement made by the gentleman from Maryland, Mr. Gilchrest, that I very much appreciate you and the staff allowing this hearing to take place today, because it is an extremely serious problem in my district, as well as the district of Mrs. Clayton, because we share many of the same counties.
And it's gotten to a point that the people of eastern North Carolina that live along the waterways are very frustrated because we have seen this problem become worse each month and each year, to the point that it has become extremely detrimental to our packing houses that pack crabmeat, that sell to the North. Many of our industries, commercial fishing industries, are beginning to feel the economic problems that come when your sales drop. And, in addition, tourism in eastern North Carolina has been adversely affected by this Pfiesteria problem that has been growing in our region of the State.
So I really very much appreciate the opportunity to hear from the scientific community, as well as those from the State of North Carolina, as well as a gentleman that will speak with the second panel, Mr. Chairman, that has been so concerned about the Neuse River, which is in my district, that he has taken this cause on himself. I'm delighted that Rick Dove is here.
And so, with that, Mr. Chairman, I look forwardlike the gentleman from Maryland, I have a lot to learn. I want to see what the Congress can do to work with the States to see if we can find a solution to the problem. So, again, I thank the witnesses for being here today, the panel, and we look forward to learning from you. And thank you very much.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SAXTON. I thank the gentleman from North Carolina for his comments.
Ms. Clayton, do you have a statement that you'd like to make?
STATEMENT OF HON. EVA M. CLAYTON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Ms. CLAYTON. Yes, I do, and I ask unanimous consent to put my full statement into the record.
Mr. SAXTON. Without objection.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Clayton follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. EVA M. CLAYTON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Good morning. I would like to thank Chairman Saxton and Ranking Member Abercrombie for permitting me to participate. Pfiesteria is of great concern to North Carolina as the State has over 2.3 million acres of estuarymore than any other Atlantic Coast State. Estuaries play a critical role in the life cycle of marine fisheries as many commercial species feed, spawn and nurture their young there.
Pfiesteria has plagued North Carolina for many years, and experts now think that this organism was first observed in our waters almost twenty years ago in 1978.
While the Old North State has made multiple efforts to address this pestilence, through estuary studies, nondischarge rules, phosphate bans, rapid response teams, nitrogen load reductions, nutrient limit reductions, source wetland restoration programs and a two-year moratorium on new or expanding swine farms; Pfiesteria is an enigma for us all as it has been found in many Atlantic waters, from the Chesapeake Bay south to Florida and west to Texas.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Fishing is an industry of great importance to North Carolina, with 7,000 licensed fishermen and over a billion dollars in revenue yearly. In 1995 alone, commercial fishermen landed over 177 million pounds of fish, with a value of over $112 million dollars.
In the area I represent, while the amounts are not as high as those in the district of my colleague from North Carolina, Walter Jones, who serves on this Subcommitteethe amount of fish landed in the seven coastal counties of North Carolina in the First Congressional District (Beaufort, Bertie, Chowan, Craven, New Hanover, Paquotank and Pender) was over 21 million pounds with a value over $10 million dollars11 percent of the entire state total.
Thus, the impact of Pfiesteria upon the fishing industry, in North Carolina and other coastal statesis significant as many of the affected counties derive most of their income from tourism and fishing, and most are severely economically disadvantaged to begin with.
It is imperative that we work together constructively and effectively, Federal, state and local governments and agencies, academic researchers, and concerned citizensto attack and find rapid and workable solutions to this predicament.
I am pleased to note that two North Carolinians will be testifying today, the Honorable Wayne McDevitt, the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Dr. JoAnn Burkholder, who we proudly claim in North Carolina, from North Carolina State University.
Through her diligent research, we now know a great deal about the organism itself and its life cycle. All of us owe her a debt of gratitude for her tireless work, which put her at great physical risk for illness.
Now, it is time to fund additional work for Dr. Burkholder, and other scientists and researchers like her, in order to answer the remaining questions regarding the effects of Pfiesteria on humans, animals and watersheds.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The waters of North Carolina have certainly felt the effects of Pfiesteria outbreaks, especially in the Neuse River, the Tar River, the Pamlico River as well as the entire Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary, parts of which are in my Congressional District. There have been more than a million fish killed in our State and many reports of human health problems.
Given the adverse impact of such significant fish kills upon my District, North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic, we need to seek solutions through aggressive research.
Mr. Chairman, we face a very serious threat that must be addressed immediately. We should not rush to judgement, however. Scientific inquiries are ongoing, but we should not waste time. Further research and testing should be undertaken at once.
It is my hope that funding for critically-needed research and testing will come as a result of today's hearings. Only through funding will come opportunities for solutions.
All North Carolinians that live, work and recreate in the affected waters, share that hope. Their lives and livelihoods depend upon it.
I was able to insert language into the House Agriculture Forestry, Resource Conservation and Research Subcommittee version of H.R. 2154, the Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reauthorization Act of 1997, to authorize the use of research and extension grants to study the impact of Pfiesteria and other microorganisms that pose threats to human and animal health upon aquatic food webs.
Thanks again to Chairman Saxton and Ranking Member Abercrombie for allowing me to participate.
Ms. CLAYTON. And I want to express appreciation to you, Chairman Saxton, for affording me the courtesy to appear and to welcome your convening this meeting and how important it is for people in my district. I joined with Congressman Jones, and he has more than I, but it's certainly a substantial number of our counties, at least five of my counties, and about eight of his counties are engaged in this. Fisheries is an important industry in our area, and therefore, anything that affects its economic health is a serious implication to the opportunity of economic survival in that area.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It has grown in our area, but equally important to this whole problem is the potential for human health, and we do not want to diminish what that means. We don't want to be quick to judgment, but we do want to say that we must act, and we must act in a careful, but cautious way, but not so cautious that we are afraid to pursue.
I have been involved in trying to get our agricultural community involved, and Pfiesteria, for the first time, will now be a part of its research agenda that we got introduced into the legislation.
So, Mr. Chairman, I welcome what Members will be saying, individuals will be saying to the members of this Committee, and I want to welcome two of our North Carolinians who are here, who will make presentation, testimony, later.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much.
Mr. Castle, do you have some comments?
STATEMENT OF HON. MICHAEL N. CASTLE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF DELAWARE
Mr. CASTLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for a couple of things. One, for my return to this room. I was on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee before they abolished it, and this is a pleasant room to come back to. Maybe we should have kept it going, everything considered.
And I would like to thank you very much personally for listening to some of us who wanted this hearing in responding dramatically quickly, for Congress at least. We are very appreciative of that. I'd also like to thank Mr. Gilchrest, who I think has been a strong leader on this subject for some time.
I first came into contact, not directly but hearing about it, withthank God, from what I've heard [Laughter]with Pfiesteria in 1987, when I was the governor of Delaware. We had a massive fish kill in the Indian River Bay, just off the Atlantic Ocean, and it actually turned the waters mahogany brown. It hit every species of fish in that particular waterway, and eventuallyand it was sort of after the factit was linked to Pfiesteria.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This summer, again, we had tainted fish appearing off of Cape Henlopen and the Indian River and in the inland bays, and for people in Washington, that's in the Rehobeth area. That's what they identify with here in Washington; they all go there. And these are major fishing and recreational areas for Delawareans. It's not absolutely certain what that was, but it was a concern.
This, obviously, is not just a problem in Delaware. It's a problem in North Carolina; it's a problem in Maryland; it's a problem as far north as potentially New Jersey/New York and on down the coast. And I thought from the very beginning, when I started hearing about this this year, that we needed a national focus on this. We need a national coordinated effort by a lot of those various groups and agencies who are before us here today, by State and Federal agencies with vital input from researchers to work with the public to determine what the problems are and how to correct them. This is new to a lot of people.
And I believe that Congress has really stepped forward and played a major role in the Pfiesteria discussion, and I am pleased with this hearing, which I think continues that. I think that some of the responses have been positive in terms of action, too. We've appropriated $11 million in funding to various Federal agencies, many of which we're going to hear from today, to study the causes, effects, and solutions, and effects on human beings' health, I might add, to the Pfiesteria phenomenon. And, indeed, this is the second congressional hearing which we have had on this subject.
This is a serious problem. We've heard about tourism here today. We all know that the sale of fish is down in certain areas, maybe even broader than certain areas in the United States of America. I have heard firsthand from Dr. Burkholder, who's going to testify today, just last week when she was kind enough to spend a good deal of time in Delaware, about the effects and impact on a research assistant of hers. There potentially is a human health problem here. We really don't know what the extent of all of this is, and most of us in Congress are not scientiststhere are a few scientists in Congress; I'm not one of them, but they're there. And we really need to learn as much as we possibly can, so that we can coordinate the regional and national effort to try to resolve the problems which exist.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So we really do appreciate you being here. We really are listening to you, and we are trying to move as rapidly as possible. And I will have a chance to mention him later, but Christophe Tulou is here, who used to work right here on Capitol Hill, and he's Delaware's Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and has also taken a strong interest in this issue. We're pleased to have him here as well.
And I look forward to the hearing. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you, Mr. Castle.
Let me ask unanimous consent at this point that Mr. Young's statement be placed in the record, and, additionally, that all of the Subcommittee members be permitted to include their opening statements in the record at this point. Without objection.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Young follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. DON YOUNG, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ALASKA
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your holding this hearing today on Pfiesteria and other harmful marine algal blooms. As many Members are aware, these algal blooms have been detected in our coastal waters for decades and have been seen from Florida to my own State of Alaska.
While the outbreaks of Pfiesteria near our Nation's Capital have highlighted this problem, it is not an isolated one. Congress has responded by amending appropriation bills to fund Pfiesteria research. What we need to do is make sure that all of the increased funding does not get focused only on the immediate problem of Pfiesteria, but is directed to address the problem of harmful marine algal blooms in general.
I appreciate the fears of Members with coastal districts which are experiencing this problem for the first time, but this is a national problem. It is not effective to throw money at individual outbreaks. We should look at the bigger picture and fund research into the broader harmful algal bloom issue. We need to support coordinated Federal and State peer-reviewed research on the marine micro-organisms involved in harmful algal blooms across the nation.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I look forward to learning more about how all of these algal blooms are related and whether they all react in the same manner. I hope we will also help show that Federal funding efforts must be used in a coordinated manner to learn more about these micro-organisms and what causes them to become toxic to other marine life.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The information follows:]
Mr. SAXTON. Now I would like to introduce our first panel of witnesses. Let me say at the outset one of our panelists has been delayed because of air traffic, or whatever. Mr. Daniel Baden called us an hour or so ago and said that his plane was just about to take off from a Florida airport. So we'll hear from him later in the day.
Let me introduce the members of panel one who are with us, and we thank you all for being here. We have Dr. Terry Garcia, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere in the Department of Commerce. He is accompanied by Donald Scavia, Director of NOAA Coastal Ocean Program; Dr. JoAnn Burkholder, associate professor, North Carolina State University; Dr. Donald Boesch, president, Center for Environmental Sciences, University of Maryland; and Dr. L. Donelson Wright, dean and director of Virginia's Institute of Marine Science, who is accompanied by Dr. Eugene Burreson, director of research and advisory services, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences.
Let me just mention to each of you that we have those nasty little lights there in front of you. They help us stick to what we call the five-minute rule, which means that each of you has allotted to you five minutes for your oral statements, and of course in each case your entire statement will be included in the record.
I would now like to recognize Mr. Garcia for his statement at this time.
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STATEMENT OF TERRY D. GARCIA, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF COMMERCE FOR OCEANS AND ATMOSPHERE, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, ACCOMPANIED BY DONALD SCAVIA, DIRECTOR, NOAA COASTAL OCEAN PROGRAM, AND JOHN STEVEN RAMSDELL, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, MARINE BIOMEDICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES, MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Mr. GARCIA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you noted, I am accompanied by Mr. Don Scavia, who's the Director of NOAA's Coastal Ocean Program, as well as Dr. John Ramsdell from the Charleston Laboratory.
I appreciate this opportunity to discuss NOAA's role in the multi-agency response to the Pfiesteria crisis in the Chesapeake Bay. Our efforts are focused on research and management, both supported by education and outreach. NOAA's coastal programs and research laboratories have been conducting important research related to harmful algal blooms and Pfiesteria, and will continue to do so. NOAA will also continue working with the States through our Coastal Zone Management Program and the Chesapeake Bay Office, as well as the Beaufort and Charleston Labs.
My written testimony describes in full detail the various activities of NOAA and our Federal partners. What I'd like to deal with today in my brief oral statement is the larger national problem that we are confronting today of harmful species that apparently are increasing in abundance and intensity in coastal waters, both domestically and internationally. These harmful algal blooms, including red tides in the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeast, brown tides in New York and Texas, and shellfish poisonings in the Gulf of Maine, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska impact nearly every coastal state and have been responsible for an estimated $1 billion in economic losses during the past two decades.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Blooms have decimated the scallop fishery in Long Island's estuaries, killed a billion fish in North Carolina estuaries, closed down various shell fisheries on Georgia's bank, and from North Carolina to Louisiana, and killed almost 150 Florida manatees. These harmful algae have been associated with a serious die-off of dolphins along the East Coast in 1987, and without effective means to monitor paralytic shellfish poisoning, approximately 30,000 miles of Alaskan shellfish waters cannot be harvested.
As we meet here today, Texas is responding to a new red tide that stretches along South Padre Island and the Padre Island National Seashore, and has killed an estimated 14 million fish, including Gulf menhaden, scaled sardine, Atlantic bumper, and striped mullets, as well as red drum, flounder, and sea trout.
These harmful algal blooms, which include Pfiesteria, are composed of naturally-occurring species that, for some reason, reproduce out of natural ecosystem balance and appear in various forms, all of which can have human health and economic effects.
The increasing coastwide and worldwide trends in bloom occurrence and intensities suggest that we must look for common underlying causes, including increased nutrient levels in coastal waters. It is also important to note that excess nutrient loads, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous, are responsible for a general overgrowth of algae in many coastal ecosystems. While these algaes may not all be toxic, their death and subsequent decay can lead to severe oxygen depletion in the bottom waters of many estuaries and coastal environments.
In fact, a recent NOAA survey has revealed that at some time each year 53 percent of our estuaries experience hypoxic conditions, oxygen levels that are low enough to cause significant ecological impairment, and 30 percent experience anoxia. Those are areas where all of the oxygen is depleted. The dramatic hypoxic zone that covers 7,000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico indicates clearly the impact of overfertilized marine systems.
The ultimate solutions to many of the problems we are addressing here today, from Pfiesteria to the other toxic algal blooms, to severely depleted oxygen, will be based on an ability to predict the fate, transport, and impacts of nitrogen and phosphorous in coastal watersheds and water bodies. NOAA will continue to support the states and other Federal agencies in responding to this immediate, urgent problem. However, significant and lasting progress will require a comprehensive coordinated and integrated strategy to understand the factors responsible for high incidences of fish lesions and fish kills and for blooms of Pfiesteria and other harmful blooms.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency are taking the lead in developing a national research strategy focused in four areas: methods to identify and detect toxins; determining toxic pathways and the means to forecast harmful blooms and impacts; developing management and mitigation options, including a rapid-response capability, and enhancing education and outreach. I will submit for the record the eight specific objectives of that research plan.
At the core of this national strategy is a multi-agency research program on ecology and oceanography of harmful algal blooms, or ECOHAB, which represents the first Federal interagency research program focused exclusively on determining the factors responsible for blooms of harmful algal in U.S. coastal waters. ECOHAB is a partnership among NOAA, the National Science Foundation, EPA, and the Office of Naval Research.
The draft national research strategy, which will be ready for review by Federal and state agencies and the academic community this month, is intended to provide a basis for developing control and mitigation strategies through our coastal management programs, which will reduce and prevent the occurrence of future harmful blooms. As evidence grows that these other blooms are stimulated by non-point sources of nutrients, our efforts with EPA and the States in the coastal zone management non-point pollution control program will be critical. For the past seven years, NOAA, EPA, and the coastal states have been working to identify programs available to address non-point sources of pollution and to ensure that appropriate management practices are applied to reduce polluted runoff. The development of state coastal non-point programs has provided a roadmap of what we need to do, and has identified existing tools and areas where more effort must be required.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act also provides important tools, including the requirement that NOAA identify essential fish habitat and work with the fisheries councils to protect essential fish habitat. As we move forward in dealing with Pfiesteria and other harmful blooms, NOAA will continue to work with the states and coordinate Federal research monitoring and assessment; will lead the development to National International Agency Program that includes research to understand and predict conditions favoring Pfiesteria bloom development and toxicity as part of the national approach to harmful algal blooms; assessment of human health and economic impacts on coastal communities and seafood consumers; further development and implementation of appropriate measures to control and mitigate these impacts, and expanded outreach efforts to ensure that coastal managers and the public can make informed decisions dealing with fish kills, lesions, and safeguard public safety.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That concludes my testimony, Mr. Chairman. I'll be happy to answer questions at the end of the panel.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Garcia may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SAXTON. Thank you very much, Mr. Garcia.
Dr. Burkholder, we're anxious to hear your testimony.
STATEMENT OF JOANN M. BURKHOLDER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY
Ms. BURKHOLDER. Thank you, sir. The toxic dinoflagellate, Pfiesteria piscicida, and at least two other toxic Pfiesteria-like species that have not yet been named, are one-celled animals with complex life cycles and direct attack behavior toward fish. The toxic Pfiesteria species complex is known, thus far, from the mid-Atlantic and southeastern United Statesespecially from the Albemarle-Pamlico of North Carolina and the Chesapeake Bay, which are the largest and second largest estuaries on the U.S. mainland.
The dinoflagellates are usually benign little animals that consume other microbes and dissolved organic nutrients. They become toxic when they detect high levels of substances excreted by fish. Optimal conditions for toxic Pfiesteria activity are poorly-flushed, quiet brackish waters, warm temperatures, and high nutrient loading from human and animal wastes.
In the past seven years in North Carolina, we've lost more than 1 billion finned fish and shellfish from kills and disease related to the toxic Pfiesteria complex over large expanses of our estuaries. This year, these same dinoflagellates also have affected about 50,000 fish from some areas of Chesapeake Bay. Pfiesteria piscidia, which is best known, causes open-bleeding sore diseases, immune system suppression, and other health problems for fish.
Medical evidence also implicates Pfiesteria piscidia in serious human health impacts, especially for people who have worked with toxic cultures in the laboratory before we discovered that Pfiesteria-like species make airborne toxins that we inhale. Some of the effects, such as skin lesions, severe headaches, profound learning disabilities, and short-term memory loss have lasted for weeks to months. These symptoms usually lessen or disappear following weeks or months away from affected areas or toxic cultures.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Nearly all of the peer-reviewed published research on the toxic Pfiesteria complex have come from collaborations that my laboratory has developed with other Federal, State, and university scientists. As the foremost expert on these organisms in the world, I can state that comparative insights about the different Pfiesteria-like species are critically needed, focusing on their respective distributions, nutrient pollution controls on their toxic outbreaks, their impacts on estuary and food webs, their toxins, and their chronic as well as acute impacts on both fish and human health.
Inadequate funding for research on toxic Pfiesteria over the past seven years has been a restraining factor since my laboratory first discovered these dinoflagellates at major fish kills. Congress has also been slowed because a critical component, chemical analysis of these toxins, has not been given serious attention.
For the past five years, we have struggled to obtain assistance from colleagues who, despite having been sent toxins for analysis, repeatedly were not forthcoming with information about them. Toxin analysis is essential to determine whether fish from affected areas are safe to eat and the extent to which people are being hurt. My research associate and I have been seriously affected by these toxins. We have languished, and other people in our estuaries have been hurt because this information has not been forthcoming. Improved safety precautions could not be designed and treatment for affected people could not be developed.
Recently, we were able to send these same toxins to collaborators at the National Marine Fisheries Service, Charleston's Marine Biotoxin Center, through the NIEHS intramural program. Without regard for financial gain or personal accolades, these colleagues honored the issue and have worked long hours without funding support. In less than three months, they have isolated and purified water-soluble and lipid-soluble toxins from Pfiesteria. Furthermore, in recognition of the critical nature of this issue, they shared their information immediately.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My laboratory staff and I have forged collaborations and provided counsel for many Federal agencies, such as NOAA, NIEHS, FDA, and the EPA. We also have developed strong collaborations and provided guidance to State agencies in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and Florida, among others. We have ongoing collaborations with many researchers from universities in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Southeast, bringing an inter-disciplinary team effort to bear in resolving important questions about the toxic Pfiesteria complex, as well as other toxic algae in both fresh and marine waters, in issues of fisheries protection, water pollution control, and human health.
We also have established a network of volunteer concerned citizens. More than 300 such people in North Carolina are helping to report fish kills to us so that we can more accurately identify areas affected by Pfiesteria, and provide a warning system to help safeguard public health.
In my opinion, Congress can enhance efficient progress and the collective ability to understand Pfiesteria and other harmful micro-organisms in coastal areas by funding several major laboratories to serve as centers of coordinated multi-disciplinary research efforts. We who have the experience on Pfiesteria, that have been tested by the yardstick of many peer-reviewed publications, critically need resources that are essential so that we can make major progress quickly.
We also need the support to provide rigorous training that is in high demand for other scientists in affected regions, and to help Federal and State agencies to provide better information for concerned citizens and environmental education efforts. Such environmental education outreach represents a pressing need to help protect public health, our fisheries, and our fishermen in affected areas so that our citizens are able to operate from a knowledge base, rather than from panic that inevitably occurs instead when ignorance of these issues or unwarranted fear is the basis of action.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The impacts of toxic Pfiesteria and its close allies is an issue that I care deeply about and have worked to understand for nearly a decade. I have talked about the biology and impacts of these organisms, but a more central message needs to be related here. The toxic Pfiesteria complex commonly thrives in areas affected by nutrient pollution. They, as well as other harmful micro-organisms, appear to be increasing in coastal areas where urbanization, agriculture, and other human activities are threatening the health of our aquatic ecosystems. The story of Pfiesteria serves to illustrate that in coastal areas where so many of us live, fish health and human health are strongly linked.
It is my hope that through knowledge of Pfiesteria and other harmful species, we can come to a greater appreciation of the need to take better care of our coastal waters, toward protecting both our fisheries and our own health.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Burkholder may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. GILCHREST. [presiding] Thank you, Dr. Burkholder.
Our next witness is Dr. Don Boesch from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. We worked together on a number of issues before, and occasionally have been on the same boat at the same time in the Chesapeake Bay. Don, welcome to Washington. We look forward to your testimony.
STATEMENT OF DONALD BOESCH, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
Mr. BOESCH. Thank you very much, Congressman Gilchrest. We've been in the same boat in many respects, I think.
My perspective on today's subject is influenced heavily by my recent service as the Chair of two scientific committees. Late last year, I was asked by the Secretary of the Interior and the Administrator of NOAA to chair a panel of experts that conducted a national assessment. We've produced this report, and I think we've given you copies of it. The title of the report is, ''Harmful Algal Blooms in Coastal Waters: Options for Prevention, Control and Mitigation.'' And our objective was to take this beyond the definition of the science needs, to talk about what we can do now to practically apply our knowledge to deal with prevention, control, and mitigation of the ill effects of these harmful algal blooms.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC More recently, I have been called on by Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffinwho I believe will be speaking with you on the next panel, to chair a technical advisory committee to advise the State's agencies in their assessment of fish lesions and kills in the Maryland waters. And this committee includes notable experts outside of Maryland, as well, including Dr. Burkholder and Dr. Burreson, who are also here today.
From these vantage points, I'm pleased to offer my opinions about what is known about the effects of toxic dinoflagellates such as Pfiesteria, the role of human activities in stimulating them, and future research needs and approaches.
The national assessment, as I said, focused on what could be done about the ill effects of these toxic algal blooms, and these include blooms that cause paralytic and amnesic shellfish poisoning, red and brown tides, and other blooms that cause catastrophic losses of aquacultured fish, particularly in the Northwest.
Our report concluded that although pollution and nutrient enrichment have been strongly implicated in worsening algal blooms in various parts of the world, they have not yet been unequivocally identified as the source of any of these U.S. blooms that we studied. Unfortunately, we did not include Pfiesteria in this assessment, so we have to look at the Pfiesteria question a bit more carefully.
Nonetheless, we concluded that the pursuit of water quality objectives, improvements of proving water quality that involved pollutant reduction, and particularly the reduction of nutrient inputs in the coastal waters, as Mr. Garcia has indicated, might well pay off major benefits in terms of reduction of the frequency of harmful algal blooms, as well as achieve the other living resource objectives that we've set forth in the restoration of bodies of water such as the Chesapeake.
Our conclusions also included recommendations about how research can help us deal with prevention, control, and mitigation, and specifically called for Federal attention to the issue of, ''How do we then take our knowledge and apply it to control, prevention, and mitigation strategies''?
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Turning now to the Chesapeake, let me summarize where we are. First, after evaluating the variety of principal causes of fish lesions in the Pocomoke River that were observed starting last fall, it now appears likely that many of these lesions and the fish kills that took place this summer were associated with toxins of Pfiesteria or the related dinoflagellates, as Dr. Burkholder had indicated, that have been identified from these waters. The evidence has grown and increased our confidence that these are the causes of these problems.
In addition, medical researchers have documented skin rashes and reduced efficiency in short-term memory in individuals exposed to this body of water, and, more recently, some other bodies of water in Congressman Gilchrest's district on the Maryland Eastern Shore that have had similar problems. This has obviously raised concern by a quantum and resulted in a variety of steps to ensure the protection of the public health, while we learn more about the detection and cause of these problems.
The scientific team and advisors that are working on this within Maryland are turning their attention, in particular, to the environmental conditions that promote the outbreak of toxic forms of Pfiesteria-like organisms so that we can predict when they might occur, protect public health, thereby, and also better control the human activities that might stimulate them.
As you know, nutrient over-enrichment, particularly from agricultural sources, has been widely suspected. Maryland Governor Parris Glendening has charged a Blue-ribbon Pfiesteria commission that he has appointed to recommend steps that can be taken to reduce the risks. Their report is due on November 1. More effective controls of nutrient losses from agricultural activities, including the disposition of poultry manure, are among the principal issues under review.
I believe that Dr. Burkholder would agree with me that we are still in the early stages of the Pfiesteria learning curve. Her contributions have been truly monumental, but there has been only a small group of scientists as she has indicated that has worked on this problem for only a short period of time, and the organism is, indeed, very complex.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With a stronger case now made for the documented health concerns, and a number of regions now more clearly affected, greater scientific research is required. I urge in your oversight role that Congress insist that this research is strategic, is integrated across the agencies and disciplines, incorporates high standards of scientific quality and peer review, and is accountable in leading to clearer understanding and solutions. From the perspective of our technical advisory committee, we've identified certain priorities for that researchand it's in my written testimony, and I will shorten it by not repeating them here.
In my opinion, though, an effective mechanism already exists to support the direction and coordinate the needed environmental research on the environmental aspects of this problem in the NOAA-led program on Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms, or ECOHAB, as Mr. Garcia described. This is a program that already exists. It's national in scope; it's broadly focused, and it involves the participation of other relevant Federal agencies, as well as NOAA. I would urge your attention to advancing this program.
Finally, I'm very pleased, as Mr. Garcia indicated, that the Federal agencies have been working together to develop an integrated approach across government to address the environmental, health, and agricultural control problems.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Boesch may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Dr. Boesch.
Dr. Wright, of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Welcome, sir.
STATEMENT OF L. DONELSON WRIGHT, DEAN AND DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCE, ACCOMPANIED BY EUGENE M. BURRESON, DIRECTOR FOR RESEARCH AND ADVISORY SERVICES, VIRGINIA INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCE
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WRIGHT. Thank you, Congressman Gilchrest.
I'm not an expert on Pfiesteria myself. I'm here representing the Virginia Institute of Marine Science of the College of William and Mary, which includes an interdisciplinary team of 10 scientists who are studying various aspects of Pfiesteria and related phenomena, such as nutrients. The lead member of that team is Dr. Burreson, who is with me here today.
As you've already heard, there is much that is already known about Pfiesteria piscicida. However, there are at least three other species in the Pfiesteria complex. I should correct an error in my written statement, which refers to two; there are, in fact, four species. The basic biology and toxicology of these other species has not been well-studied.
The species present in the Chesapeake Bay are not well-documented, but the fish kill in the Pocomoke River on the Virginia-Maryland border seems to be have been caused by one of these other species, not Pfiesteria piscicida. Clearly, we need much more research on Chesapeake Bay species in the Pfiesteria complex and their impact on living marine resources. We also need more research on the broader questions of harmful algal blooms and the impact of nutrient inputs.
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science has a long history of research in the Chesapeake Bay, and the Institute is mandated in the Code of Virginia to conduct research and provide objective scientific advice to the Commonwealth and its agencies; hence, has been the leading scientific institution on the Pfiesteria task force in Virginia.
Our longstanding, monthly, fish stock assessment surveys in the lower Chesapeake Bay and its major tributaries have provided an early warning system for potential outbreaks of Pfiesteria-like organisms in Virginia. Our surveys to date have not documented an unusually high prevalence of deep lesions on recreational or commercially-important food fishes in the Chesapeake Bay, and there have been no reports of Pfiesteria-related human illness from eating Chesapeake Bay seafood. Thus, consumer fears about eating Chesapeake Bay seafood are unfounded, in our opinion. We believe Virginia seafood is safe.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Virginia Institute of Marine Science has diverted existing resources to develop research capabilities on Pfiesteria complex organisms. We're presently culturing non-toxic stages of heterotrophicthat means animaldinoflagellates from areas with high prevalences of lesions on juvenile menhaden. These cultures have been used to perfect protocols for identification of Pfiesteria complex organisms with a scanning electron microscope. We now lack only the training on specific identification characteristics to be able to provide an identification capability for the Chesapeake Bay region, but we must, very soon, obtain that capability.
There is still much we don't know about Pfiesteria. Federal leadership and funding are urgently needed to support future research in at least four areas that are pertinent to the Chesapeake Bay. The first has to do with identification. We need to develop scanning electron microscope capabilities for identifying Pfiesteria when it occurs. We also need to develop rapid molecular or immunologic diagnostic techniques for Pfiesteria complex organisms.
The second pertains to the general biology and ecology of the organism. We need to understand the general biology of all species in the Pfiesteria complex; in particular, the response that these organisms have to various environmental factors. Nutrient enrichment has been implicated as an important factor in increasing the abundance of these organisms, but the exact nature of the relationship has not been well-established yet in laboratory studies. More research is needed.
Third is toxicity. We need to determine the toxicity of all species in the Pfiesteria complex and the effect that these toxins have on marine life. The fourth has to do with the ecology of fish lesions. We need to understand the distribution and the seasonal onset of lesions in juvenile menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay, in relation to various environmental factors in water quality. VIMS has elements in place to be able to accomplish all of this in Virginia. We believe that this capability must be developed within the Chesapeake Bay.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I also would like to say that I agree with Dr. Boesch that the ECOHAB program provides an effective mechanism for multi-state and interdisciplinary coordination.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my remarks.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Wright may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you very much, Dr. Wright.
I have to leave in about 5 minutes, for about 10 minutes, and Walter is going to take over the Chair; I guess, Mike, you have a little bit more time to be here. You don't have to go at any time.
But, I'm just going to ask a few questions before I have to leave to testify at another committee. But, what I'd like to do is come back and continue asking this panel questions, so you and Mike and Eva can have at it as long as you wantfive minutes.
One quick question I'd just like to ask the panel in general, and each of you, if you would like, can respond to this question. Is there any doubt at this point that Pfiesteria has a toxic stage, that Pfiesteria was the cause for fish kills in the Pocomokepossibly King's Creek and the Chicomacomiko River, but particularly in the Pocomokethat that toxic stage of Pfiesteria killed those fish in the Pocomoke and that a toxic chemical released by Pfiesteria did, in fact, have some harmful health effects on people? Is there any doubt about any of that at this point?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. Mr. Chairman, I think I can clarify a little bit for you. There is, as has been mentioned in the panel, a toxic Pfiesteria-like species; in fact, we have found two toxic Pfiesteria-like species in the Pocomoke estuary at this time. Dr. Steidinger, from the Florida Marine Research Institute, is a foremost taxonomist on dinoflagellates. She and I are working together to cross-compare and cross-corroborate our species analyses, and we feel that it's premature at this time to say which member of the toxic Pfiesteria complex was present, but twoactually two toxic species were. So they haven't been named, particularly, but they're definitely there.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have also verified that these toxic species could kill fish and culture fairly rapidly, after we received the samples, indicating that these species were indeed toxic in the Pocomoke estuary and were hurting fish.
It is always very difficult to establish certain causality in a field setting, but from our data I would say that we are 95 percent certain that two toxic Pfiesteria-like species were there, that they caused fish problems, and that the problems experienced by humans who were in that estuary at the time of these fish kills are extremely similar to the problems confronted by humans working in a laboratory setting with Pfiesteria. It's much easier to demonstrate causality in a laboratory environment, and the symptoms that were sustained by laboratory workers were very, very similar to what was sustained in the Pocomoke.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. Garcia?
Mr. GARCIA. I would agree with Dr. Burkholder and would ask that Don Scavia, who is accompanying me, elaborate. The chairman had earlier elevated me to the ranks of these scientists by referring to me as ''Dr.,'' and although I appreciate it, I'll have to decline the promotion. But I would ask that Don Scavia
Mr. SCAVIA. Mr. Gilchrest, there's actually not a whole lot to add to what Dr. Burkholder has just said. It is clear that there is a Pfiesteria complex out there.
Mr. GILCHREST. When you say Pfiesteria complex, you're talking about a series of these little, tiny creatures that are cousins.
Mr. SCAVIA. That's right.
Mr. GILCHREST. But not brothers or sisters.
Mr. SCAVIA. I think we'll stop with saying they're cousins.
Mr. GILCHREST. Okay.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCAVIA. And they are certainly indicted in this whole episode. But beyond that, I think the work that is being done with Karen Steidinger in Florida and in JoAnn's lab to try to nail down which species we're dealing with is critical.
Mr. GILCHREST. But it is your conclusion that a tiny micro-organism, with whatever namesome aspect of the start of the food chaindoes react with a certain toxic stage for the purpose, we guess, of stunning fish so they can go in and feed, and then that toxic chemical remains in the water? And if people go in the water near the time that that happened, they could have, or they do have, some health effects?
Mr. SCAVIA. That's my understanding. I think JoAnn can actually elaborate on that.
Ms. BURKHOLDER. I can make a couple of other points. One is that the laboratory exposures that were sustained were predominately from inhalation of neuro-toxic aerosolsairborne toxins from these organisms. And in the field setting, it looks as though the same kinds of effects occur. These toxins are fairly short-lived when they're in the water or the air, based on our research to date, but there are both toxins in the water that can cause trouble for humans, and also toxins in the air that people can inhale.
When fish stop showing signs of distress, when they stop developing erratic behavior or lesions or open-bleeding soreswhen they stop dyingthe toxins that are in the water rapidly break down, so these Pfiesteria-like species have to keep making toxin in response to fish. The toxins don't last very long in the water.
Mr. GILCHREST. So if the fish aren't present, they're not likely to release this toxin.
Ms. BURKHOLDER. That's true. These organisms are usually benign little animals, and they only become toxicto date, based on our researchwhen they are in the presence of a lot of excreta from fish. I don't think it's any accident that menhaden have been the species that are affected in both North Carolina and Maryland waters, predominantly. About 90 percent of the fish that have died have been menhaden.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. If a large number of menhaden are in a certain area where there is this Pfiesteria complex and this triggers the toxic stage of this Pfiesteria, if the fish then become stunned and actually die and then probably stay there, does the Pfiesteria then persist over a long period of time in its toxic stage?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. Pfiesteria is only interested in live fish when it's toxic, and once fish die, they transform; they convert like a caterpillar changing to a butterfly into stages that don't look anything like the little stages that were in the water, but those stages attach to fish and begin to feast on the carcasses or the remains of the fish; they're not toxic anymore.
Mr. GILCHREST. Then they revert back to a different state. What's the time frame for all that to happen?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. In the laboratory with extremely toxic cultures, fish can die within ten minutes. Out in the field, we have what we call sudden death fish kills sometimes from Pfiesteria-like species, in which many fish can die within four hours.
Mr. GILCHREST. So, the Pfiesteria, though, stayed toxic for about the same amount of time?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. Yes, they do. Menhaden, as I mentioned, do everything wrong. They are big; they travel in big schools; there are many, many fish in a school; they're very oily; they have lots of excretions, and they linger to feed in poorly-flushed areas where a lot of their excreta will accumulate and stimulate Pfiesteria.
Mr. GARCIA. Mr. Chairman, can I make one point?
Mr. GILCHREST. I'm going to have to run, so I'm going to turn it over to Mr. Jones. I'll be back, hopefully, in 10 minutes.
Mr. GARCIA. I wanted to make one point that this highlights. This exchange that we just had highlights the need for the continuing research that all of the individuals here have been conducting and those on the later panel will talk to you about. Also, to note that Dr. John Ramsdell, who is with me, has been conducting research into identifying the toxin, which is a critical step in dealing with this problem, identifying and then characterizing that toxin so that we know what we're dealing with at the time that we have an incident of fish lesions or fish kill. Dr. Ramsdell will be available to answer questions, if you would like.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. CLAYTON. Mr. Chairman, may I ask a question?
Mr. JONES. [presiding] Yes, ma'am. The lady from North Carolina.
Ms. CLAYTON. I just wanted to inquire, and the whole assumption of the nutrient-rich environment that enhanced the possibility of this toxin, Pfiesteria-like organism, has the agriculture community nationally been involved with you in terms of research? I know we've just added, if that assumption is there, I would assume that we should begin having an integrated approach to this thing. Testimony suggested that the research need would be made and the assumption is that there is nutrient enrichment that gives great enhancement. I was just wondering, to date, is there any research from the agricultural community that's integrated into the research, Dr. Burkholder?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. No, not yet. I would welcome the opportunity to work with agriculture, but thus far, I have not been asked to participate in such research. I think it's important to noteI do appreciate the spirit of your questionI think it's important to note that it isn't, of course, just agriculture, but it's other sources of pollution too that can encourage Pfiesteria, such as urban runoff, and I think Congressman Jones will have more questions about nutrients in general, but I'll just start it off with that comment.
Ms. CLAYTON. Okay, thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. JONES. Yes, ma'am.
Dr. Burkholder, I'm going to address my questions to you, but obviously, I think maybe Mr. Garcia might respond, on one of the questions, the first question. When you mention 1 billion fish, I believe that's correct in your statement, as well as Mr. Garcia's statement, have died in the North Carolina waters, is that correct? Tell meexcuse me, I'll let you answer, I'm sorry.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. BURKHOLDER. Yes, it is.
Mr. JONES. Tell me how you determined the accurate number of 1 billion fish. I mean, I'm a non-scientist obviously, but that really raised a question in my mind. How can you verify 1 billion fish? How do you go aboutwhat's your process of verifying?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. In the old days, when we first began this research, we were relying heavily upon the Division of Environmental Management, especially the Washington regional field office. They, it is my understanding, used fish counting methods that are from the Wildlife Resources Commission of North Carolina and it was their estimate, sir, that I was using, not our own. Now that we have been involved with fish kills a great deal in the past seven years, we are using American Fishery Society's standardized and certified methods for counting for fish. They're still pretty rough.
Out in the field when fish die, they often get scooped up by gulls even as they're dying or they get washed away or blown away across waves. So often those results are reported on the average by the thousand; can't get much more accurate than that. But the 1 billion estimate wasit sounds like a lot, but let me tell you the circumstances involved.
That kill occurred in 1991 from September to October, over a six-week period. That fish kill in the Pocomoke, it affected very small menhaden; they were only three or four inches long and they had almostI think 98 percent of them were killed with open, bleeding sores. So, it was a big expansive area, about 20 square miles over about eight weeks, with very small fish that kept coming up and dying.
Mr. JONES. Thank you. Let methe additional questions, since you mentioned the seagulls, has research been done on species which feed upon the affected fish?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. I wish I could tell you yes. We're just beginning some collaborations with the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Sherwood Hall, in particular. We've been feeding infected oysters, that is, oysters that we've deliberately been feeding toxic Pfiesteria to, to see whether they would affect fish that consumed some of the oyster tissues. So far, the results are good from what I understand; there is no affect on fish that are consuming those infected oysters.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To really nail that question down, we must know the chemical identities of the toxins, so, otherwise, we can't tell you where exactly the toxins goif they're taken up by fish, whether they're broken down, whether they're allowed to accumulate, and so forth. What I can say that's encouraging, at least, unfortunately, it's anecdotal, but it does provide encouraging news, such as wildlife do not seem to be affected by eating Pfiesteria of related fish kill fish. They can consume a lot of fish with open, bleeding soresgulls, blue crab, and other species of animalswithout any apparent problems. That's very unlike some of the other toxic algal problems that occur worldwide.
So what I think may be going on is that these toxins are so lethal to fish so quickly, that they cause fish to look bad, to become diseased, and the skin peeling, and so forth, so quickly that folks would tend to leave those fish alone and probably those fish die so fast that I'm hoping they don't accumulate much toxin to begin with.
Mr. JONES. Let me ask
Mr. GARCIA. Excuse me.
Mr. JONES. Mr. Garcia?
Mr. GARCIA. Just to elaborate on one point, as Dr. Burkholder said, the research on Pfiesteria is still ongoing and incomplete regarding bioaccumulation of the toxin in the food chain. There is evidence, however, that with red tide and other harmful algal bloomsand we have a map showing the incidents of these blooms around the country, there is bioaccumulation. For example, in shellfish, we also detect the dieoffs of manatees and dolphins as a result of red tide, and we feel that there is a relationship of all of these incidents connected around the country to nutrient loading into the system. Obviously, additional research is going to have to be done on the specific question, as does Pfiesteria bioaccumulate, but we do know that in other incidents that red tide and these other problems, that it is clearly a link in the food chain.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JONES. Thank you. Just one or two other quick questions. Dr. Burkholder, I believe that Dr. Wright said, as it related to the fish in the Chesapeake or in the Virginia waters, that they were safe to eat. Would you say the same thing about the fish in North Carolina?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. I'm really glad you asked that. It's part of what I was alluding to in my testimony about a very pressing and critical need for environmental education of our citizens. Hindsight always has twenty-twenty vision, but if we could just educate our citizenry enough, they would not be responding from more of panic constraint, but instead on the basis of knowledge. The fish in almost the entirety of the Chesapeake Bay were very safe, from Pfiesteria-related problems anyway, even during the time that the Pocomoke actually was shut down. The State of Maryland acted, in my opinion, very proactively by just making sure that none of the fish from the affected area, even if they would have been safe for human consumption, were allowed to go to market. Unfortunately, because the public doesn't understand these issues very well, a panic ensued anyway and it's so unfair for the State of Maryland fishermen for that to have happened.
In North Carolina, I can say, that when there are no fish disease events or fish kill events related to Pfiesteria-like species, of course those fish would be safe from Pfiesteria, yes.
Mr. JONES. I thank you. My time is up. The gentleman from Delaware, Mr. Castle?
Mr. CASTLE. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me just ask Mr. Garcia one question. Maybe he can be brief, because I want to get to the others on some other questions. Perhaps you could outline for usthis is sort of a broad questionbut I think it's important for all of us to understand what the Federal Government is presently doing to coordinate with the States on Pfiesteria and other harmful algal bloom research and monitoring and what Federal funds may be available. Perhaps the people here know, but I think it's very important that we hear that so we know that coordination is taking place.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GARCIA. Well, very briefly, it's a three-prong strategy dealing with near-term, mid-term, and long-term needs. In the near-term we have been providing assistance to the coastal states to deal with the monitoring and assessment needs of identifying the Pfiesteria toxin and dealing with fish lesions and outbreaks of fish kill. We have provided assistance with the Environmental Protection Agency to the State of Maryland to assist them in a rapid response in the event of a fish kill or the detection of fish lesions.
Near-term, the work is focusing on identifying the toxin, its characteristics, its causes. Long-term is identifying or dealing with the larger issue of harmful algal blooms, their causes, and mitigation and control strategies, so that we can assist states in dealing with this problemor these problems, ratheras we confront them around the country.
Mr. CASTLE. A very fast followup is that (a), are we responding to crises into problems or is this now an ongoing kind of funding and research effort by the Federal Government, which I believe it should be?
Mr. GARCIA. Yes, it's probably a little bit of both, but the research has been ongoing for a number of years. This Pfiesteria problem is not new. Dr. Burkholder has been working on this for many years. The Federal agencies, NOAA in particular, have been following and researching this as well. And the larger problem of harmful algal blooms has been an issue which we have been very concerned about at NOAA and in the administration for the last several years, and as was noted, commenced this interagency effort to understand the problem of harmful algal blooms.
Mr. CASTLE. Thank you. Let me turn to all those who have doctors preceding their names here, the real scientists in this. I guess I'm a little more uncertain after hearing you than I was before. After listening to Dr. Burkholder last week in Delaware and reading about this as much as I could, I thought I sort of understood it better than I realized I do now. My concern is as somebody representing a district and somebody's worried about all the issues that you know people are going to worry about. What are the causes and what do we have to do to prevent it? I thought that the causes were fairly certain. Obviously, there's a fish coming into the area causing these organisms to become toxic; that's pretty clear, but I thought that warm water was a factor, enriched nutrient levels were a factor. The factors in that were probably point and non-point sources. But, I'm not as sure about that after hearing all of you, and apparently there's a little more scientific uncertainty about all of this, and obviously, what we have to do to prevent it is to correct some of those problems, I suppose.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm interested in your as precise opinions as possible as to potential causes to why this is happening at different times in different States and most of what I hear about are East Coast States. I don't know if some of theI've seen these maps; I saw them with national magazine first and some show problems perhaps of algae-related problems in other parts, but the Pfiesteria problem, to me, seems to be mostly in East Coast areas and generally in a fairly limited vicinity, I guess North Carolina being theNorth Carolina and Virginia and Maryland, Delaware, and those areas.
I'd be interested in your views on the causes, and be fairly bold in your answers. I mean, I want you know you need scientific backing, but we need to know what's going on here.
Ms. BURKHOLDER. Congressman Castle, we have done a great deal of research in the laboratory and some field research which strongly indicates that, under the right conditions, Pfiesteria-like species can be stimulated by nutrient overloading and they are the factors that you're alluding to. They are poorly flushed, poor flushing, or poorly flushed areas; fairly warm temperatures; the right salinity, and then a nice rich nutrient background encourages their growth. What is uncertain is the amount of nutrient loading, number one, that can begin to promote the problem, because Pfiesteria tends to occur and cause the most trouble in known nutrient-degraded waters.
What level does it begin to have a problem at we are not certain yet. What are the interactions of organic and inorganic nutrient loading and all the different complexities of the forms of the nutrients that can stimulate Pfiesteria-like species, we're not certain of yet. We know that both organic and inorganic enrichments can encourage it, but they're just all kinds of quantitative information to nail down exactly where the problem will begin, under certain swell conditions, that we need still to
Mr. CASTLE. But, that is part of your ongoing research? Is that correct?
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. BURKHOLDER. Yes, it is.
Mr. CASTLE. A substantial part of your research?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. That's the area of emphasis that I care about the most, although in the past three years I have had to devote almost all of our attention, with extremely limited funding, to toxin analysis, just growing enough of the organism to make toxin.
Mr. CASTLE. Perhaps the others have a comment.
Mr. BOESCH. Yes, if I may address thatas I mentioned, I chair the technical advisory committee which Dr. Burkholder is on, and we met for the first time in early August. To answer Congressman Gilchrest's question and yours, too, when we first met, based upon the evidence we had about the Pocomoke River at the time, there was a lot of doubt about whether Pfiesteria, or Pfiesteria-like organisms, were cause of the lesions. And all of us concluded, Dr. Burkholder as well, that we weren't certain about this, but it seemed to be something we should look into more carefully. Since that time there's much more evidence been gained, so I wouldn't say there's absolutely no doubt, but I would say there's very little doubt that what we've seen in the Pocomoke River and the other rivers of the Maryland eastern shore this summer is related to toxins produced by Pfiesteria-like organisms.
Secondly, with respect to your question about the role of nutrients and non-point sources. Obviously, as you know, the whole Delmarva Peninsula has extensive agriculture and heavy loadings from agricultural non-point sources. So obvious attention is brought there, particularly based upon the results that Dr. Burkholder briefly reviewed that she's produced in North Carolina. Now, obviously, if we're going to take major steps to control those, there's a burden of proof that we need to apply. So what we're doing right now in our technical advisory group and through Governor Glendening's citizens commission, is providing technical advice, pulling together the results that we have, not only from Dr. Burkholder's laboratory, but from other
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JONES. Excuse me, I apologize for interrupting. We've got about seven minutes to get to the floor for a vote. Then we have a second vote, which is called a 15-minute vote. Then we have a five-minute vote. Certainly, we will recess for the time being. We'll let this panel come back and then Congressman Castle can finish this line of question and answering. So, we will recess for about 20-25 minutes. Thank you.
Mr. GILCHREST. [presiding] The hearing will come to order. We have a series of three votes. Members will be in and out during the course of the rest of the hearing, but we thought we would proceed, so those of you who have to travel, your travel plans will not be disrupted.
So, what I will do is begin the questioning, I guess until I run out of questions, and if they're not back, then this panel would be dismissed.
I do have another question forone of the questions I asked before I had to leave was dealing with the fundamental question: Is there a Pfiesteria complex that emits a toxin that kills fish and is harmful to humans? Is there anybody else that wants to make a comment on that?
Mr. BOESCH. Congressman Gilchrest, just to reiterate what I said a little bit after you left in response to your question. To keep this in perspective on how quickly we're having to learn about what's going on and improve our scientific understanding and advice, I commented that in early August, as you know, we held a meeting to bring all this information together. At the time, the technical advisory committee said it's certainly possible, but it was highly uncertain that the fish problems, the lesions and the like, were caused by Pfiesteria-like organisms. Since then, in a period of just about a month, we had the fish kills, we had more direct observations and measurements, and we had more positive identification of Pfiesteria-like organisms from the Pocomoke River.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our committeeand again, as I mentioned earlier, Dr. Burkholder's been a very valuable participant on it came to the conclusion thatit's in answer to your question. You said, ''is there any doubt,'' and I said, ''well, it's hard to say there's no doubt, but it's certainly little doubt that what we've seen, at least in some of the kills we've had this summer, was related to Pfiesteria-like organisms and their toxic effects.''
With respect to the health effects, I'm certainly not qualified to evaluate that evidence, but I've heard a lot of results presented, I think as have you, that concern the cognitive tests of individuals who've been exposed and the interpretation that they've had, reduction of the efficiency of their short-term memory. The evidence is certainly building from individuals who have been exposed, not only in the Pocomoke River, but in the two other eastern shore rivers. Now, that has to be viewed in the context of the other observations, not only of the laboratory researchers in North Carolina, but of many people who have been exposed potentially to these toxic organisms in North Carolina and the concerns raised by the primary care physicians who treat them.
Mr. GILCHREST. Dr. Wright?
Mr. WRIGHT. Congressman Gilchrest, I'd just like to also follow up with a clarification of a news report that apparently was heard this morning on public broadcasting, that said that Virginia had concluded that there was no human health effects, negative human health effects. That was a serious misrepresentation. That is not a Virginia finding. I think if I may, I'd like to let my colleague, Dr. Burreson, comment further on that.
Mr. GILCHREST. Dr. Wright, there was a story in The Washington Post this morning. Is that the same story that you're referring to?
Mr. WRIGHT. That's probably the same one, yes.
Mr. GILCHREST. For those who may not have seen that, the Post article basically says that a Virginia health official said yesterday that tests on four people who believe they were suffering from exposure to Pfiesteriabasically, the Virginia health official came to a conclusion that those health effects felt by those four people was not due to Pfiesteria. That's what the paper said.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WRIGHT. Well, that's the case. Those four people were not affected, but that does not mean that one can conclude that there is no health affect.
Mr. GILCHREST. I see.
Mr. WRIGHT. It's a more general question than that, and it certainlyVirginia has no evidence that says that Pfiesteria is not harmful.
Mr. GILCHREST. Did you want Dr. Burreson to respond?
Mr. WRIGHT. I don't need it.
Mr. GILCHREST. I guess, from
Mr. GARCIA. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. GILCHREST. Yes, sir?
Mr. GARCIA. Could I ask that Dr. John Ramsdell, from our Charleston lab, just address one point on the status of the work to identify and isolate the toxin, because I think that it's an important issue and would be helpful to understanding where we are.
Mr. GILCHREST. Certainly, we'd like to hear that.
Mr. RAMSDELL. Well, sir, at this point in time I can tell you with certainty we do not have the final answer, but I am very pleased to be able to give you an assessment in terms of where we are at the present time, in terms of our efforts to be able to define the toxic material that's produced by this organism, as well as our efforts to be able to provide a means to effectively assay or detect the material from various sources.
This work really has come about in a very productive collaboration between several institutions and has been a very productive one at that.
Mr. GILCHREST. How long has this collaboration gone on for, as far as this issue is concerned, and who are those institutions?
Mr. RAMSDELL. This collaboration actually involves the NOAA Marine Biotoxins Program, Charleston; Dr. Burkholder's laboratory, North Carolina State University, and the Intermural Program of NIEHS.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. How long have you been doing this?
Mr. RAMSDELL. This collaboration?
Mr. GILCHREST. With this intermural program and your lab and Dr. Burkholder?
Mr. RAMSDELL. Yes, this basically has been conducted as three, two working groups in which we have gotten together for two three-day periods, working together, collaboratively, side-by-side, at the bench. During
Mr. GILCHREST. Was this recently? Was this in 1997, 1992? How long is?
Mr. RAMSDELL. The first collaborative trial took place in July of this year; the second collaborative trial took place in August.
Mr. GILCHREST. And the conclusion was that there's certain uncertainty?
Mr. RAMSDELL. I wouldn't want to be on the record for saying that. Basically, what we have been able to determine is that there is a water-soluble substance produced by this organism and this water-soluble substance has properties that would suggest that it may interact with the nervous system. Key to being able to identify a toxin is a means to be able to detect it, a method to detect it, because these things are not visible. You need to have some biochemical means to define it.
Basically, the approach that we took, what was based upon some earlier studies that we had done, where we treated an animal with a toxin; we injected a toxin in a mouse, and then we extracted from it's brain the genes that would be induced by that toxin. We identified one gene that looked very promising, and so we took the human analog of that gene and isolated the part of the gene that would be induced by the toxin. We then ligated that part of the gene to a gene from the firefly that is responsible for catalyzing formation of light. We then took this hybrid gene and expressed it back into mallanian cells. Then we found a cell type that, when they were exposed to the toxic organism or the water-soluble material from that organism, that these cells gained the capacity to generate light through enzyme pathways. This was used as a very sensitive means to be able to track the toxin and this is the key to being able to lead to undergo our purification stepsto be able to follow it through these long columns and all these different means which lead to a purified molecule. We are not at the stage right now where we have a purified molecule. We are close.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Nonetheless, we have been able to find that this activity does, indeed, correspond to the ability to kill fish in a tank, and so it is promising in that regard, but until we actually can indeed say that there is one molecule that behaves in this assay the same way it affects fish, we cannot be certain.
Mr. GILCHREST. I have one more quick followup question, if my colleagues will be patient with me for just one more minute, and I'll yield to Mr. Jones.
Can you give us some timeframe when you will be, when you have isolated that molecule, when you will have some clear understanding of the toxicity of that molecule and what it does? Is that a month from now, a year from now?
Mr. RAMSDELL. Well, it must be recognized that's very difficult to do. During this process when you're dealing with an unknown substance, there is no good way to predict how it's going to perform in your next step. One thing we can say in terms of detection methodology is that we feel we are at the point now where we're quite satisfied with the development phase and we want to be able to take the next step, which is validation. That is to be able to really determine how reliable that this method might be as a predictor in terms of whether or not a bloom is occurring or a predictor in terms of whether or not an individual truly has been exposed.
Mr. GILCHREST. So, you started this in July?
Mr. RAMSDELL. Yes, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. Is there some reason why it wasn't started in July of 1992, or 1993, or 1994? You don't have to answer that now. I yield to the gentleman from North Carolina.
Ms. BURKHOLDER. Actually, I could comment on that. We had basically been working with other researchers and had given them a lot of toxin in 1992, again in 1993, 1995, and the way that we had conducted this research, the individuals who were involved, had asked if they could be, basically, the people who were working on the toxin. So, at the time, we had forged that collaboration, but we could not seem to get much progress made. So, finally, we couldn't get any kind of information from those folks when we gave them toxin and finally decided that we really had to go on to other people, so we forged this collaboration.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Dr. Burkholder. I guess we can get into that issue a little bit later.
Mr. JONES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I had a chance to ask the majority of my questions prior to the recess, but there were two. Dr. Burkholder, I hate to keep coming back to you, but this is new for me, meaning being so involved with the North Carolina problem. How many assistants do you have in the research your doing in North Carolina?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. Right now, we have one full-time research associate in my laboratory, who is paid for as a full-time, full-benefits, permanent person, with North Carolina State funding. Unfortunately, it happens to be my research associate who was hurt by these organisms and is not allowed in the facility to work with them. So that research has to be conducted remotely; whatever he does has to be conducted in our laboratory and he cannot participate in growing toxic cultures and taking care of them. All of the rest of the folks in my lab are paid for by soft monies, that is, whatever research we can pull in from grants, and right now we have, on a temporary basis, from grant to grant, I think three folks who are in my laboratory as full-time technicians.
Adding fish, seven days a week, round the clock, changing live fish with dead fish, having to dissolve the fish in bleach before we dispose of them in special biohazard facilities. The disposable gloves, boot, hair covers and other materials just to work with these organisms safely, costs about $40,000 a year, and this research is being conducted in a small trailer with a backup power generator.
Mr. JONES. Thank you, and my second question, and the last will be: If you were in the Congress, or if you could recommend to the Congressand this is for the entire panelhow would you suggest that the Federal Government could help facilitate and coordinate the research that is being done in the different States by the different universities? I mean, obviously I realize what NOAA's doing, Mr. Garcia, and appreciate that very much, but I guess, do you feel that the coordination and cooperation, I'm sure it's very good, but it could be done better? What would be your suggestion to this panel?
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. BURKHOLDER. My suggestion, as I had said earlier, would be to try to especially fund some centersI think the Chesapeake certainly needs a center; the Albemarle certainly needs one at leastin which the research centers can function as integrative, coordinative effort bringing in multidisciplinary teams of people especially and including at least folks with a lot of expertise on these organisms, so that the questions can be quickly answered or at least more quickly answered than if we start from scratch in terms of our basic understanding of these organisms.
I hate to leave this just with Pfiesteria, though. There are a lot of harmful algal species, and so there needs to be some very concerted research efforts in other regions and even in these regions for some of the other harmful organisms that we have. I do applaud what Mr. Garcia has suggested in terms of ECOHAB, the multi-agency bringing together of research funding for peer-reviewed research on these organisms, not just Pfiesteria, but others.
I would also, however, hope that the collaborations that have been forged with State and Federal agencies would continue to receive somewell, actually would begin to receive somestrong funding. We have not seen that yet.
Mr. JONES. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Jones. Mr. Castle?
Mr. CASTLE. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I had a chance to ask questions before, but I thought Mr. Jones' questions were excellent and exactly what I sort of wanted to talk about, too.
I think, while we probably have in this room right now, just about the leading experts on Pfiesteria in this country, and to find out a whole lot after, you don't have to belittle anybody else, but this is not a field that has hundreds of thousands of researchers out there. This is not the latest nylon or whatever it may be. As a result, I think it's really, really important that if we do nothing else today, that we afford you the opportunity to talk to each other and to tell us what you need, as you just did in answering Mr. Jones's question, what we need to do to help you with respect to the research.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I mean, I worry that we're going toand we started to do some funding; we've had some amendments approved. We have $11 million in different programs and we passed them in the House, because we're concerned about this, but I'm worried that, you know, we're going to put $40 there and $30 there, or whatever may be and it's going to be out at the University of Delaware and Maryland and North Carolina State, and whatever may be, and you get no coordinated effort out of it. There's some excellent publications here; I think you all, on very limited resources, have really done some exceptional research work and some exceptional reporting work, but I have learned from this hearing, and knew before, there are also a lot of open questions that we have to get answered out there.
It seems to me the best thing we can do is probably put all of you in a research lab someplace and throw away the keymaybe let you out on the weekends, whatever, maybe, and have you all talk to each other and coordinate. I worry that we lose that, even in the day of computers, we lose that when you all go back to your various locations.
So, I would hope, Mr. Garcia, and to the various academics and researchers here, that we would have a real devoted effort. In my understanding, the timing of the Pfiesteria outbreaks is it's usually a late spring, summer, early fall-type circumstance. So we probably have a little bit of time now in which we can get some collaboration on some of the details of the research and hopefully elevate all this a little bit there so we can have it.
I'm not being critical, because I think this isin fact, I think the response has been tremendous to this particular problem. It's been outstanding, but there's still enough open questions I really think we need to make sure we have that coordinated effort and that we as Members of Congress don't go off on tangents either. You straighten us out if we start to pass unnecessary or duplicative amendments or cause you to go down some path that isn't helpful to what you are doing.
I mean, you're welcome to comment on that if you wish, but that's my judgment and what I would like to see come out of this. Dr. Boesch?
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BOESCH. I'd like to comment on it. I think it's an excellent point. As I said in my testimony, I think, whatever resources you provide, you should hold the agencies and the scientific community accountable. This is a challenge for us because of the sense of public urgency and the difficulty of the problem. As I said, I would hope that we, however, not lose sight of the things that provide excellence in American scientific tradition, that is peer review and holding to high standards of quality.
With respect to the coordination, I think we're seeing several things which are promising. First of all, on a Federal level. I think in part inspired by a conversation that our Governor Parris Glendening had with the President at a school event, the next day the alarms rang and there was a meeting of top-level Federal agency people to begin to coordinate their efforts. I think that's a very positive sign.
Secondly, with respect to the scientific community outside of government, you're right. We've tended to be somewhat parochial at times, and particularly with respect to research in estuaries. We have worked with our colleagues in Virginia because we share the same Chesapeake Bay, but we've often approached our science as, you know, Chesapeake Bay science and Albemarle Pamlico Sound science, and Delaware Bay science. We need to do better than that. So this is going to be a challenge for us to do that.
We've made one advance on this problem, when problems were identified in Maryland waters Secretary Griffin, who will be talking to you later, actually appointed a committee that includes not just Maryland scientists, but scientists from VirginiaEugene Burreson is a member of thatand from North Carolina and South Carolina. So, we already have at least the beginning of a mechanism to begin to share our experiences and to talk about how we can work together across those State and watershed boundaries, if you will.
Mr. GARCIA. If I could just make one point, I thought your point was excellent. We have to maintain a sustained research effort in this field. We have, I think on relatively limited resources, accomplished quite a bit through ECOHAB and now through the combined Federal-State effort to deal with the Pfiesteria problem.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would also point out that it's difficult to overstate the need to focus on non-point source pollution and dealing with that problem. Whether or not Pfiesteria is linked to nutrient loading, whether or not some of these other problems are, it is a no regrets policy or approach. You will see an improvement if we can control and mitigate the impact of non-point pollution, and so I would suggest that, in addition to the research, we also need to devote resources to assisting the States, and this is a key point, assisting the States in developing their programs, because it has to be done on a State and regional level, developing their programs that will control non-point pollution.
Mr. CASTLE. Thank you.
Ms. BURKHOLDER. If I could add one comment to that, I do very strongly agree with Mr. Garcia. Although the verdict is out on a lot of these algal species, we have highly-correlated Pfiesteria increases with both human sewage and swine waste in some of our field work. So, there's a case to be made for the role of non-point pollution to at least be further investigated and stressed in some of research efforts to resolve these questions.
Mr. CASTLE. And of course, there's always side benefits, other benefits, just as in the Pfiesteria, with respect to that.
I appreciate all of your answers and I do think you're doing a good job. I feel like a coach who's team is fighting to come backyou've done well; we've got to do a little bit better type thing like that. I'm not critical at all, but you know, we do need to talk to one another. So I do appreciate all the interest.
I yield back.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Castle. I just have two quick followup questions.
Mr. Wright, in your testimony you stated that the number of fish with lesions in the Chesapeake Bay was not unusually high for this season. I've heard a number of other people make that same statement, and I would guess that it's probably fairly accurate. Yet, we see a great deal of information across not only the East Coast, but the West Coast, about algal blooms, about the Post a little while ago had an article dealing with 162 dolphins washed up on the beach off of Mexico and they felt that it was some toxic one-cell plant; pelicans in 1991 in southern California, 22 in 1984. Well, in 1984 we began to hear about the problems in North Carolina; and then apparently in Canada, Prince Edward Island, three people actually died and 100 people were sickened by five kinds of seaborne toxic algae.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Are we just better at finding these things? Have they always existed to this degree where they've been harmful? Are we increasing the number of these incidents since, let's say, a certain timeframe in the United States, because of nutrient overload? I don't know if that's too vague a question, but
Mr. WRIGHT. No, it's a very good question. I think there are at least four aspects to the lesion question that I probably should address. The first is that there are many causes of lesions on fish. The second is that our trawl surveys, which go back many years, so we have a historical record and we have people on the trawl surveys who are accustomed to recognizing fish with lesions and to reporting these causes, and they see lesions on fish every year during the summer months.
The third point is that most of the lesions have appeared on menhaden this year. Out of a trawl survey that was conducted about two or three weeks ago to look more closely at the possibility of Pfiesteria in the Rappahanock River and other estuaries, something just under 12,000 fish were recovered in those trawl surveys, and of those 12,000 fish, .4 of 1 percent had lesions. So that's a reason to say that it's not unusually high, but
Mr. GILCHREST. I wouldn't argue with that. I think Maryland DNR showed pretty much the same statistics as you're describing here. I guess my question is, have these things alwaysis there an increase in the number of harmful algal blooms? An increase in this type of dinoflagellate, Pfiesteria complex in the last 20, 30, 50 years? Can we document that there's a surge in this or has it always happened and we're just better at identifying it?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. I'd like to make a couple comments. One is that we have only known that toxic Pfiesteria piscicida and it's close relatives were in the water killing fish since 1991. So we have a very, very poor historic record. We've been working in my lab for seven years on this in the field, but the only way that it came to our attention was because these little culture contaminants began to affect fish in the vet school at North Carolina State University. In other words, we found little organisms with attack behavior toward fish, a very bizarre kind of phenomenon. If we hadn't seen it because of an accident in culture, we wouldn't have even known enough to look for it out in the field. So, we have a very short historic record on Pfiesteria.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC At least in the Albemarle-Pamlico, I can tell you that old-time fishermen have said that there have been kills such as the ones we've related to Pfiesteriaone in maybe the late 1970's, but mostly since 1984. They've told me that there are many times that fish have died, like menhaden, and small schools in canals in our State. They go into these canals, run out of oxygen, and they're not considered very bright fish, so they don't leave, and they die.
But the kinds of kills that I'm talking about are kills in which most of the menhaden are filled with bleeding sores that can span 15 million fish sometimes and can stretch for weeks and sometimes even months in North Carolina's estuary. The old-timer fishermen have told us that those kills in our waters have only been with us since about the mid-1980's.
All we can do from there is speculate. The Albemarle-Pamlico is very poorly flushed and for the past 50 to 70 years we've been pouring many, many, many tons and tons of nutrients into this poorly-flushed system. There's some research on other harmful species, which indicates that if you shift the balance of ratios of nitrogen and phosphorous nutrients that are found in sewage and animal waste, if you just shift that balance in the environment, you can encourage some harmful species to become more toxic, and so perhaps what's happened is an inadvertent experiment here. We didn't realize we were adding a lot of nutrient loading that might have shifted Pfiesteriawhich was always thereto act more toxic. We can't say that for sure, but that's one scenario that we'd like to examine further.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you. Dr. Boesch?
Mr. BOESCH. Could I just comment on a broader scale? You mentioned all these other harmful algal species as well. The report that I distributed earlier to the Subcommittee has a brief review of what we know about the ones that we have confronting us in the United States, as well as globally. To answer your question, I think the answer I would give is that, first of all, there are some types of harmful algal blooms we know have increased because of the long period of observation. We have a long period of study and observation in marine science in European waters and we know that these have increased over the years.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Examples from the U.S. situation: In Long Island estuaries, as well as in Texas, we have brown tides that we know did not have before. One area is located right next to the University of Texas Marine Laboratory where their observations for 50 years show that brown tide didn't occur before, so we know that that's a new phenomenon. We have others, for example the red tides in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, which we've known existed and have wreaked havoc for a very long time. But, there's some concern that in the in-shore regions where we're polluting, over-enriching, changing the environment, we may be making those worse.
For Pfiesteria, the reason I think it's difficult to answer, as Dr. Burkholder indicated, is that we just discovered it. We don't have a clear understanding of what happened before in the Chesapeake or the Albemarle-Pamlico. Indeed, it has been long understood that there are more lesions in fish in the summer. In fact, in 1984, there was what seemed to be unusually high incidence of fish with lesions throughout many parts of the Chesapeake. This could indeed have been caused by Pfiesteria-like organisms. It's very difficult to unravel; there's some potential that we could look at cysts in the fossil record, and so on, but it may be a question we'll never fully answer.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Dr. Boesch. Mr. Garcia?
Mr. GARCIA. Dr. Boesch basically covered the point I was going to make, but in the ECOHAB work that we have done, the research indicatesthe weight of the research and opinion isthat, yes, these broader incidents of broader algal blooms are occurring with more frequency, with greater intensity and severity and they're lasting longer. So, that would be my answer to your question. And the question of whether or not we were just looking in the right places now, that's part of it. We have acquired more knowledge, but, again, the weight of the opinion is more frequent, more severe, and longer-lasting.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you. Mike, Walter, do you have any follow-up questions? I think what we'll dowe just had another vote, so we'll recess, also dismiss the panel, and then come back for the next panel.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If I could justreal quickly though, while we're running over thereis there any way, right now, to predict an estuary might have these troubles?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. That has eluded us on almost all of the harmful algal bloom species for a long time. We can tell you where they're likely to occur, but whether you get one that year depends on a lot of other factors that we still don't understand very well, like how weather interacts with some of the flow events and run-off; just those two factors can throw us off.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
Mr. WRIGHT. This is clearly an area of need for future research, as I identified earlier, and it's one for which we will most certainly need Federal resources and coordination.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you. Is the ECOHAB programs one of the central programs that Mr. Castle was referring to that we might want to fund? Does it represent a program that can draw from a variety of disciplines?
Mr. GARCIA. Yes, sir.
Mr. GILCHREST. How did Pfiesteria get its name?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. It was named in honor the late Lois Pfiester. She had a very interesting and unusual life. She was formerly a nun. She left the convent after several years, it's my understanding, and formed a familywas a professor at the University of Oklahoma. I came from a fresh-water background, and so I was familiar with her work. These organisms don't realize there's a boundary between fresh water and oceans; they call that an estuary and they go down it.
So, I had read the fresh-water literature, as well as marine literature, which is sometimes not done by marine folks. We in fresh water sometimes don't read marine research and vice versa, but I knew of her research, and she had found dinoflagellates in little bogs in Oklahoma with 38 different life cycle stages that transformed rapidly among all these different things. And so when I first found Pfiesteria doing these strange and bizarre things, it was through Dr. Pfiester's insights that I was able to make the leaps in understanding it that I was able to make. So these were named in honor of Dr. Pfiester.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. So, Dr. Burkholder, you are responsible for the name?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. Well, actually, Dr. Steidinger and I worked together on that name.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you very much Dr. Burkholder.
Gentlemen, thank you. We'll recess for about 15 minutes.
Mr. JONES. [presiding] The Subcommittee will be in order.
We now have our next panel of witnesses: Wayne McDevitt, Secretary at the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources; the Honorable John Griffin, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources; the Honorable Christophe Tulou, Secretary, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; and Mr. Rick Dove, the Neuse River Keeper, Neuse River Foundation; and also Mr. Dan Baden, Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Science Center.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for being with us today. I think most of us who have the privilege to be on this Committee appreciated the first panel, it was extremely informative and very helpful, and we're delighted to have you with us today. So, with that, we'll start with Dr. Dan Baden. Dr. Baden?
STATEMENT OF DANIEL BADEN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES, MARINE AND FRESHWATER BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE CENTER
Mr. BADEN. Good day. My name is Daniel Baden and I am the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Marine and Freshwater Center at the University of Miami. I have 24 years experience in marine toxin research.
Toxic marine phytoplankton are responsible for red tides or harmful algal blooms known as HABsyou've already heard this. HABs occur in virtually all coastal areas of temperate and tropical seas and are responsible for five known types of seafood poisoning in man.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Specific HAB incidents are often geographically localized but there occurrence is sporadic. As I speak, in addition to the Pfiesteria and other fish-killer HABs in the mid-Atlantic region, Texas, Louisiana, and other States on the Gulf of Mexico are experiencing Florida red tide outbreaks. These red tides are notorious for tons of dead fish per day per mile of coast-line. All HABs are natural events induced or permitted by specific environmental conditions.
HABs are also implicated in mass-marine mortalities known as epizootic. In the past 20 years, red tide toxins have been implicated in the deaths of bottlenose dolphins in Hawaii; manatees in Florida; pilot whales in the North East U.S.; pelicans in California; cormorants and gannets on the east coast of the U.S.; fish along the entire Gulf of Mexico coast-line, also stretching up to the Carolinas and Maryland coastal zones.
As sentinel or indicator species in the oceans, marine animals are akin to the canaries taken into mine shafts. Their death or sickness is an indication of degradation of local environmental conditions. Questions concerning environmental parameters conducive to HAB development, maintenance, and termination, test our oceanographic knowledge base. Questions concerning our ability to detect and/or predict blooms as they develop address components of marine biotechnology, coastal zone nutrient loading, and life cycle biology. Questions concerning effects on marine animals touch on aspects of biomedical research, detection technologies, and whole animal physiology.
Federal and State programs that address each of these research questions individually are currently in place, but holistic research that addresses the interface between research areas is lacking. Thus, Departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture need to coordinate with one another and develop partnership funding strategies.
Likewise, basic scientists, clinicians, oceanographers, ecologists, and taxonomists, all must develop better ways of interaction and communication essentially by developing interdisciplinary approaches to their science. In other words, these activities that are land-oriented and those that are ocean-or aquatic-oriented need to be coordinated in the coastal zone.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Over half of the U.S. population resides within 50 miles of a coast line. It is in this coastal zone that HABs occur, that marine animal deaths have been documented, and that coastal nutrients are changing. Coordinated, multi-agency funding packages have not kept pace with the interdisciplinary nature of the science.
Harmful algal blooms produce some of the most potent toxins known to man. Potencies only exceeded by the more familiar protein toxins like botulism toxin. HAB organisms are often toxic throughout their life cyclethere are, of course, exceptions like Pfiesteria, that appear to exhibit toxic phases. Because of their high intrinsic toxicity, exceedingly small amounts are required to induce lethality. Even smaller amounts may be accumulated and cause sublethal metabolic and/or neurotoxic abnormalities.
We need more research to completely define the consequences of exposure, to understand the toxic mechanisms at the molecular level, to design antidotes or therapies, and ultimately, to develop preventative strategies for man and animal alike. This is an interdisciplinary area that should be addressed by NIH, NSF, and DOC.
We need more research directed at HAB initiation, progression, and termination. Concurrently, it is essential that we develop testing methods and other tools that can accurately measure the number of HAB organisms at the beginning of a bloom. We currently know so little about triggering or sustaining factors that this is an area of active interest in all regions of the U.S. As many as 20 marine organisms produce HABs, and each has individual ecological requirements. Factors beneficial to one species may be detrimental or inconsequential to yet another species.
There is a need here for Federal-State partnerships for research and information sharing. There is a decided need for specialized programs for development of test kits, perhaps by partnership with the biotechnology industry. We need to develop testing protocols that can measure toxins through food-chains and within organs and tissues. Especially with the implementation of the HACCP program or seafood testing in December of 1997, there is a desperate need for bringing all testing to use in certification.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, stable funding for the science in academic laboratories and at the State and Federal level is necessary so that we can produce rapid response teams to address HAB problems. It often seems that funding runs about nine months behind toxic events and universities are increasingly reluctant to provide the fiscal support to carry out rapid-response projects.
I would like to thank the Subcommittee for the invitation to address these issues.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Baden may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. JONES. Thank you, Dr. Baden.
Now we will hear from the Honorable John Griffin.
STATEMENT OF JOHN GRIFFIN, SECRETARY, MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Mr. GRIFFIN. Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee: on behalf of my boss, Parris Glendening, the Governor of Maryland, and everyone in his administration, I'm honored and pleased to be here with you this morning to share with you some of our experiences at the State level in dealing with this complex issue. I might say by way of introduction, sorry to see that our own Congressman Wayne Gilchrest is not here, but he has been a great friend and leader on this and many other issues working with us at the State level in Congress.
Mr. JONES. Mr. Griffin, I assure you he will be by.
Mr. GRIFFIN. I also, of course, being here on Capitol Hill, want to recognize the efforts of others in our delegation, particularly Congressman Steny Hoyer and, over on the Senate-side, both of our U.S. Senators, Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski have been great to work with. In fact, we're all very grateful at our level for the very rapid and effective response, Mr. Chairman, coming from Congress and the President and the Federal agencies. I've been in State government now about 20 years and I can tell you without hesitation this has been probably the preeminent example of effective Federal-State partnership in responding to this crisis. And, all of you are to be commended for your support and your rapid response.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Actually, we have, in State government, in Maryland, I guess for better or worse the last several months, been a bit on the cutting edge of this issue. And, it has represented an unprecedented challenge for us and, at times, frankly, it seemed like something out of an H.G. Wells novel.
But, I thought what I would do briefly is trace looking back at the last several months some of the lessons that we've learned in trying to deal with this. And, the first one is the whole question of the learning curve. I think everybody that has approached thisfrom myself, the folks in our department, our sister agencieseveryone started off with a fair degree of skepticism, either because the problems that were being reported didn't seem to fit our mental maps, or because they seemed to stretch the public health science, or we were starting to question a little bit the motives of some of the folks that were bringing these problems to our attention. For example, did the watermen have other axes to grind?
So, each and every one of us as we became more immersed in this issue, I think, while at varying degrees, went from being somewhat skeptical to coming around and saying, ''Hey, there's something serious going on here.'' So, to the extent that you think about this issue in the broader context nationally and around the country, suffice it to say from our experience there is always a learning curve with this kind of an issue.
The second lesson, I guess if you will, that comes to my mind in thinking about this issue over the last several months in Maryland, is the whole issue of addressing the fear of the unknown. This, obviously, because of particularly its public health implications has created a great degree of concern in our State, and among folks who come here to vacation. And, at first we were sort of faced with a paradox: if you voiced publicly legitimate scientific concern, whether it's in the environmental field or the medical science field, there you were fairly rapidly confronted with issues over wanting to cover up data or being in a state of denial even when those questions were raised in a fairly professional way. Where it led us in Maryland rather rapidly was to a posture of full and timely disclosure of information.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We, looking back on it, realized that in the face of the fear of the unknown the best way to handle that is to start to develop a level of confidence in the public that you are doing all that you can, that you're sharing information and data as openly as possible with public directly through their elected representatives and through the media.
And that, of course, leads to the other half of the paradox, and that is that when you do what you tend to be accused of over-hyping the situation, but I think these kind of issues, as you all know, becomeand they have in this case, certainlya topic of great public consternation. And, even when you're on the cutting edge of this, and even when you're learning as you go along, I think, one of the lessons we've learned is: engage in full and timely disclosure of what you know. And, through that, I think, one can build a sense of relative confidence in the citizens and, therefore, tend to dissipate the sense of anxiety that they have. I'm not saying that that's a posture that isn't at times kind of sloppy, if you will, but for us, seems to have worked fairly well, I think.
An example of that that I would share with youand I notice Congressman Gilchrest came into the hearing room and he, of course, was present for that, as he's been on this issue and many others leading from his role as a Member of Congresswe had a conference at Salisbury State University on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in early August. And we tried to bring together our colleagues from the Federal agencies, sister States; Wayne and Chris both sent folks from their Departments to our three-day summit. We had a number of folks from the scientific community there, elected officials like Congressman Gilchrest; and we had a number of constituents from the lower Eastern Shore, the affected watermen, farmers, people whose businesses rely on the tourism trade, and we engaged, I think, in a very open, honest, thorough discussion of the state of our knowledge, concerns, and areas of distrust that folks had about what we had done or not done.
And, I think looking back on that again, is an illustration of this notion of being as open as you can with the public, even if, for the short-term, that creates some problems. This is a long-term issue, and, therefore, you have to look at it in terms of building confidence and trust and understanding for the long-term.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The next issue, in terms of a lesson for us, I think, is the complexity of this issue and how it demands a high level of interagency collaboration. As you know, because this problem cuts across various functions of governmentenvironmental, public health, economic, to name a fewit requires the agencies to sort of sacrifice a bit of their singular missions to the over-riding cause of understanding and solving the problem. And, I think in general, we have been able to do that in Maryland, not only among the Governor's agencies, but, as I mentioned earlier, with active participation from our Federal counterparts.
Two other points I want to emphasize in terms of this collaboration: one is the importance of science and the importance of having management agencies linked up with their scientific counterparts. Don BoeschDr. Boeschmentioned in his testimony, I noticed, a reference to the fact that I had asked him to set up a scientific brain trust, if you will, to guide us in our deliberations as management agencies. Looking back on that, again, as a lesson that, I think, was a fortuitous action that we took and Don's committee has important scientists from up and down the eastern seaboard, including Dr. Burkholder and her colleague, Dr. Stidenget, and we will continue to use them as a forum to which to deliberate some of the many imponderables that confront us in terms of taking management actions when the science is either in debate or not clear.
And, of course, another example of the intergovernmental effort here was another summit that was held here last month called by Governor Glendening, my boss, with active participation from governors in surrounding States, and the EPA Administrator, Carol Browner, and a number of folks from Federal agencies, some of whom are here today testifying. That was another, I think, stellar example of the degree to which governments are kind of putting aside, more so than we typically do, prerogatives and turf and everything else, and just looking at the problem and trying to work together to solve it.
Another lesson, of course, as I reflect back on the last several months has been the importance of leadership: people stepping forward. Three come to mind: first, I assume you'll understand that I want to mention my boss, Governor Glendening; secondly JoAnn Burkholder who you heard from earlier; and lastly, Jack HowardI don't know if Jack's going to make it todayand all the watermen down in the shell town area in the southern Eastern Shore. Each in their own way broke with convention, took risks, and did so many times in the face of a lot of peer pressure to the contrary. So, in Maryland, as Dr. Burkholder has said, we've been fortunate that our governor has been willing to become personally involved in understanding these issues, taking political risks to try to ensure the well-being of our citizens and our environment, stay the course, and make hard decisions in the face of many imponderables.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I would like to emphasize that point and recall, as many of you know, my own personal experience in State government going back to 1985, we had declining rockfish or striped bass populations up and down the Atlantic seaboard, and we made a decision at that time in the face of uncertain scientific predictions and banned the harvesting of rockfish. And I guess that taught us a lesson that I would apply to this particular issue and that is: if you wait until all the science is in and confirmed, you may have waited too long. And, so, that isn't to say that continuing to push the envelope in terms of advances in scientific understanding is not very important; it is, but there are going to be at times a long the way when, at the government level, decisions are going to have to be made which are not irrevocable, but are going to have to be made, and in retrospect, of course, that's what leadership is all about.
The final couple of lessons I would share with you: one is, what this issue has really, I think, brought forward for us in Maryland, is the important link between economic well-being and environmental well-being. And, if nothing else has done it heretofore, this issue has focused everyone's understanding in Maryland, I think, on the very important fact that you have to have in order to have a healthy economy, you have to have a healthy environment and they are so linked with one another. And, the impacts of this issue in Maryland, not only on the immediate economies of the fishing industry, both recreational and commercial and farmers, and the seafood industry, and tourism interest is obvious, but there are many secondary impacts that we're experiencing right now.
Finally, the last lesson, I guess, is that I think this has shown us that we clearlyyou know in Maryland we've been at the effort with our sister States and the Federal Government of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. We've been at it now for about 15 years, most people feel that it's one of the several handful model efforts around the country, indeed around the world. And, so, on the one hand, you sit here when things like Pfiesteria outbreaks happen in your own State and wonder, well, gee after all this effort and we're still having these problems. But, I guess, what it has led us to think more and more about is the need to look more broadlymore holistically, if you willat environmental complexes as were mentioned earlier. And, in terms of sources of nutrient input, start to do for nonpoint sources what we have done collaboratively for point sources during the first 25 years of the Clean Water Act.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, I'll conclude, Mr. Chairman, and Members. Thank you for your time, and I'll be happy to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Griffin may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. GILCHREST. [presiding] Gentlemen, thank you very much. I know it has been a bumpy road here for the past six months, but I think you have stayed the course and done the right thing.
We will recognize the gentleman from North Carolina to recognize his witness. Walter?
Mr. JONES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to welcome the Honorable Wayne McDevitt, Secretary of North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources. And what makes this very special is Wayne and I have been friends a long, long time; and even more so than that is that he has been in this position for 70 days. And, during that 70 days, he had to deal with the North Carolina legislature as they were closing down shop in late August; and then, the people that I know that know Wayne have great respect for him, as I do, and we know that he is going to do an excellent job for the citizens of our State, not only with this issue, but other issues. Also, I would like to extend to his staff my respect and welcome to Washington, DC.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. Mr. McDevitt?
STATEMENT OF WAYNE McDEVITT, SECRETARY, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Mr. MCDEVITT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and also thank you to North Carolina's good friend, Congressman Jones, who not only does a tremendous job for his district there in eastern North Carolina, but for all of North Carolina. And, it's quite frankly an honor for me to be in a room that I see a former Congressman Jones portrait on the wall back here, and again, thank you for allowing us to be here.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On behalf of the Governor, I do want to thank the Committee for giving us this opportunity to testify. We have submitted a statement earlier, along with other comments, and I have technical staff with me today to assist as we continue the dialogue.
Pfiesteria was first identified in North Carolina, and North Carolina intends to be a major player in solving this problem. Much of the early work on Pfiesteria was funded through a cooperative Federal-State partnership, including several of Dr. Burkholder's early research efforts.
Pfiesteria is a serious problem and we all agree on that. There seems to be more that we don't know than that we do know about Pfiesteria. We must learn more about this organism and we'll continue to work with our Federal and regional partners to do so. But, we must look at the bigger issue: protecting and restoring our water quality. Pfiesteria is the symptom of a greater problem. We all know, and Dr. Burkholder has told us and others have told us, that significant nutrient reduction is critical if we're going to restore our rivers.
We're pleased to join in this regional approach to a common problem. Many of our Statesmany of the States represented here todayhave large estuaries with slow-moving water, strong agricultural economies, and growth in populations, and changes in land use. The potential impacts of that growth are obvious and the need to address them is just as obvious.
Your Committee has played a major role in setting policy with respect to fisheries management, research, and the protection of coastal and marine environments. Your role in the reauthorization of the Magnuson Act, particularly as it relates to habitat protection, is vital. North Carolina has the largest estuarine system of any single State on the Atlantic coast: 2.3 million acres. Species need estuaries to complete their life cycle: spawning, nursery areas, feeding areas, and migration routes. This is why water quality protection and restoration efforts are so critically important. Fish from North Carolina estuaries and coastal rivers migrate throughout the Atlantic coast and support significant commercial and recreational fisheries along the Atlantic seaboard.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Recreational and commercial fishing in North Carolina contributes $1 billion annually to our State's economy. Providing viable fisheries and protecting habitats are high priorities. We recently passed, in North Carolina, the North Carolina Fisheries Reform Act that will tie together our water quality, coastal management, and fisheries protection efforts through habitat protection plans in a way that has never been done before.
Dr. Burkholder has said on a number of occasions that Pfiesteria is a cause for concern and not alarm. We need to work together to inform and educate the people in our respective States about the precautions they need to take to protect health while making sure our fishing and crabbing industries remain viable.
In North Carolina we've witnessed fish kills, algal blooms, and degradation of some of our waterways and estuaries due to excess nutrients. We've acted to combat our nutrient problems and we've made some meaningful progress. We need to do more. We need to do much more. But I would like to highlight for a moment some of the steps we have taken.
The Governor and the State lawmakers just concluded the most important legislative session for the environment in our history. We passed fisheries reform legislation. We're strengthening our strategy to reduce nutrients in our troubled Neuse River. We established the Clean Water Management Trust Fund which provides $50 million annually to water quality protection initiatives. We established a wetlands restoration program. We're toughening our enforcement policies and strengthening our sedimentation and control programs. We established a rapid response team to investigate fish kills, and expanded our coastal recreational water quality testing program to protect public health. We toughened siting, permitting, and operating requirements for livestock operations and strengthened our agricultural cost-share program. We've created a scientific advisory committee, established a medical team, a hot-line for citizens to call. We stepped up environmental education.
Most important, Governor Hunt signed the Clean Water Responsibility Act which puts a two-year moratorium on hog farms in the State, reduces nutrient limits for waste-water dischargers and nonpoint sources, and incudes provisions for improved land use managements. North Carolina has major financial investment in funding important research programs and initiatives. Over the past two years, we've approved over $147 million to support these efforts.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We've taken some very important steps, but we must do more. We must do much more. We've met with our North Carolina Congressional delegation and with the governors from five States, and we all stand ready to join as full partners on this issue. We've talked with them about our needs. In particular, we've emphasized the Governor's commitment to establishing a Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology at North Carolina State University where Dr. Burkholder does her research. Congressman Jones has introduced legislation to authorize funding for that center, and I would like to point out that the entire North Carolina delegation supports that, and we urge favorable action as quickly as possible.
In North Carolina we must reduce nutrients, including pollution from atmospheric deposition. We must fund additional research; we must identify additional funds for more than $12 billion in waste water treatment needs in our State; and we must collect data and conduct research to develop fishery management plans. In order to do all of these things and others, we must have strong legislation, clear regulations, tough enforcement, good information, funding for research, and public support. We welcome the assistance of this Committee, and our Federal partners. We look forward to working with all the stake-holders, including farmers and local governments; citizens; environmental groups, such as the Neuse River FoundationRick Dove, the Neuse River Keeperand all others in cleaning up our waters.
Once again, we're pleased to participate in this regional approach. We're ready to join whatever efforts are necessary to coordinate, and communicate, and understand this better. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Wayne McDevitt may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. McDevitt.
I now will yield to the gentleman from Delaware, Mr. Castle, to introduce the next witness.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CASTLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and it is a pleasurean honor reallyto introduce Delaware's Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental ControlI think he has the longest name of anybody up thereChristophe Tulou, who is no stranger to these rooms, I might add. He worked with now Congressman, or Governor CarperI get confused myselfGovernor Carper as his legislative director, and helped develop legislation on sound coastal management involving the National Flood Insurance Program, and the National Marine Mammal Health and Stranded Response Program. He receives very high marks for continuing the outstanding policies of environment in Delaware by the previous administration and really responding well to the Pfiesteria issue. And we in Delaware, are very appreciative of all those things and we're delighted he was able to be here today. Christophe Tulou.
STATEMENT OF CHRISTOPHE A. G. TULOU, SECRETARY, DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL
Mr. TULOU. Thank you, Congressman Castle. I appreciate very much the Committee's invitation to be with you today, and Governor Carper does send his best wishes to his friends and former colleagues. He certainly has fond memories of spending many hours in this room as a member of the now-defunct Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries.
At any rate, Delaware has a very, very strong interest in this issue. We've had our experience with Pfiesteria in the past, as Congressman Castle mentioned earlier in the hearing, going back as far as 1987and for all we know, maybe even before that. And, we have also found Pfiesteria-like organisms in our waters this summer. So we have an active interest and great concern for what's happening there.
You will see in my written statement a lot of what's going on in Delaware and reference to a number of things that we are doing to try to address not only the Pfiesteria problem, but what we think are the root causes of that problem; and I will refer that to the members of the Subcommittee for their perusal.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What I would like to do is just focus on what we perceive as the most fundamental needs, and they aren't terribly complex, and there aren't too many of them. But, certainly, first and foremost, in picking up on some comments that have already been made at the hearing so far today, is the need for our research efforts to be coordinated. We can't stress that enough. The State of Delaware, and certainly the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, is not going to assume the primary research responsibilities for determining what's going on with Pfiesteria. I don't think that's an appropriate role. But what we do need is some good information, some good facts, and good science to rely on as we go to those portions of our community that are going to be responsible to help us address those problems. And certainly, the more particular research needs are defining even better what factors are responsible for the proliferation, the toxicity, and also the human health effects associated with Pfiesteria.
Dr. Burkholder and her researchers and colleagues have certainly strongly indicated that nutrients are implicated. But they have also mentioned that the nutrient requirements of the organism are extremely complex, and I think we certainly need to pin that down better so that we can better direct the effort that we're going to need to exert to make sure that the basic problem is taken care of. And, I think that's the important point here, really. Pfiesteria is just one of many symptoms of a much larger problem that we're experiencing in our coastal waters. It's not a mystery to us that we need to be addressing aggressively nonpoint source pollution as well as remaining point sources, for that matter, recognizing that the efforts that we have made to date are obviously not getting the job done.
We have a potential Pfiesteria problem in Delaware. We've wrestled with it in the past. We've got over-nitrification which is leading to a tremendous explosion of algae growth in our inland bays in Delaware creating large expanses of anoxic waterno oxygenand that's just as poisonous as any toxin that Pfiesteria can create in terms of eliminating large amountsand the large diversityof living resources that we have in those waters.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is a critical problem, and I would say for a subcommittee that's looking for some advice on where we need assistance the most, it's not with the short-term issue alone: the long-term need to address those nonpoint sources of pollution is critical. Support for State nonpoint source pollution programs, watershed programs, and particularly, the total maximum daily load obligations that the variety of States are wrestling with right now, which is a mandate under the Clean Water Act but has for many years been woefully under-supported, is probably one of the best areas of resource allocation that Congress and the States can work together on.
So, with that statement, I'll be happy to answer any questions that you may have when the panel is finished.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Tulou may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you very much, Mr. Tulou. I'll recognize Mr. Jones once more for his next witness.
Mr. JONES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I'll be very brief.
I do want to recognize and welcome Mr. Rick Dove. For so long, Mr. Dove has been the voice in the wilderness as it's related to the pollution of the Neuse River down in my district. And finally, I know that he is delighted to see this day come about, and the many efforts that you've madeand through the past years he has had many people in eastern North Carolina, as well as the governor of the State, and people throughout the State of North Carolina to join his concern to help us try to find a solution to the problem.
So, with that, I welcome you, Rick Dove, to the Committee.
STATEMENT OF RICK DOVE, NEUSE RIVER KEEPER, NEUSE RIVER FOUNDATION
Mr. DOVE. Thank you, Congressman Jones, Mr. Chairman.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For the past 20 years, I have lived on the shores of the Neuse River, certainly one of North Carolina's most beautiful and important resources. It's important to the health of the citizens, it's important to the economy of the State.
In those more than 20 years, I have watched as this resource has been slowly wasted away. Between 1975 and 1990, the degradation of the Neuse River was slow but steady. But then beginning in 1990, there was an acceleration of pollution into the river, and as a result of that, the affects that we saw, including the massive growth of Pfiesteria in our waters, got to a point that we had never seen before.
As a river keeper for the Neuse River, I am one of more than 20 licensed river keepers in the country. I am a full-time paid citizen representative on the Neuse River. My sponsor is the Neuse River Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Nupper, North Carolina. So, when I talk to you today about the river, what I want you all to know is that I'm giving you the citizen's perspective of what's happeningwhat's happenedon the Neuse and what is happening.
As I said earlier, the Neuse is a beautiful river. We've had fish kills for a long time on the Neuse River. I've talked to the old-timers extensively. I spend a lot of time on the water, flying over the top of it, talking to fishermen, talking to people who've lived theresome of their families have been there for hundreds of years. And, you get a pretty clear picture of what's been going on in that river through those peoplethrough their eyes. And we know that we've lost fish for a long period of time on the Neuse, mostly as a result of low oxygen levels which also has a pollution connection. But, we really never began to see Pfiesteria on the river until the mid-1980s and by the 1990sand at that time I was a commercial fisherman, I actually gave up fishing because I could no longer stand to see the fish coming out of the river and the crabs with their sores.
So we began to see fish with lesions in large numbers. By 1991, we lost a billion fish on the Neuse River. It's hard to imagine a billion fish dead on one river. But I promise you, they were there. There were so many dead fish that they were using a bulldozer to put them into the beach in some areas. The stench from the fish was so bad that people didn't even want to go outside their houses.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Very few of us, and I don't think any of us, knew back in 1991 what was causing the fish kills. We knew it wasn't low oxygen because we were testing for oxygen and the oxygen levels were fine.
Again in 1995, we lost 10 million fish. Now, the Neuse River Foundation is the oneit's members were the onesthat conducted that survey, and we did it as scientifically as we could. We only counted dead and dying fish on the Neuse for 10 of the 100 days they were dying in 1995. But clearly, that fish kill was not as bad as the one in 1991.
We've also had fish kills and fish with lesions on all the other years. Some years are better than others. In 1997, this year, we have documented the loss of over 390,000 menhaden fish with sores, very similar to the picture that I have given to each of you.
We also noted, beginning back in 1995, that we've had a number of our citizensour fishermen, our bridge workers, and others who were working on the waterreporting illnesses related to Pfiesteria. As a matter of fact, in 1995, the State health director called me personally and asked me to send in the names of all the people that went out on the boat, from the media and others who would go out on the river, to give them their names so that they could ask them whether or not they were suffering any problems. Not surprisingly to me, 47 percent of the people that were interviewed said they had problems that were related to Pfiesteriaor at least their problems could be related to Pfiesteria. Yet in all that time, including to today, the State health director in North Carolina has refused to acknowledge one existing case of Pfiesteria in humans in North Carolina. We know it affects the fish, but does it affect people? There's no doubt in the minds of the people who live on the lower Neuse, but we still are searching for the truth in North Carolina when Maryland has been able to find it in a matter of months.
Now there's been a number of things that have happenedgood things. We feel very fortunate that we have a new secretary for the environment in North Carolina, Secretary McDevitt. He has done a lot of good work already in the few days that he has been doing this job. He has come to grips with the truth of what's been happening down on the lower Neuse and I'm so encouraged by the fact that he is our man in North Carolina and we're going to be able to work together. But, we've got a long way to go. He has no control over health in North Carolina; that's under a different secretary. We must come to grips with the health problems we have in North Carolina as a result of Pfiesteria and other pollution sources in the river.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The other thing that we need to do is we need to get busy about fixing the real problem, which is not Pfiesteria. Pfiesteria, as you've heard from so many of the other panel members, is only a symptom of pollution. Pollution is the real problem. It is important that you allocate money for research. Please don't not do that. You must do that. But spend that money wisely.
We've got Dr. Burkholder in North Carolina. This bill that Congressman Jones has introduced to fund a research center in North Carolinacertainly we need a research center in North Carolina. North CarolinaMaryland today, is seven years behind where North Carolina is. We've had these problems in North Carolina for seven years now. So we need that research. But we really needand we need it on North Carolina waters. But we really need, more than anything else, we need to get pollution reduced in our bodies of water. That's the real answer. We may even be able to solve the Pfiesteria problem without ever understanding it if we simply reduce the pollution levels.
I know my time is up and I want to end just with a couple of solutions that have already been mentioned by the other panel members. We have one great law in this great country of ours, it's called the Clean Water Act. It has really helped save our rivers from very serious degradation over the 20 years. But it has been very poorly enforced in certain key areas. The total maximum daily load provision of that law, section 303(d), mandates that States, when they have waters not meeting their designated use, find out what is the pollutionwhat is the pollutantthat's causing the problem, and then to establish a total maximum daily load for that pollutant so that the river is restored, mandatorily restored, to its designated uses. States across this country, including North Carolina, have not followed the law. They simply have not followed it and the EPA has not enforced it.
We are currentlythe Neuse River Foundation has currently got a suit pending against the EPA on that very issue. We must enforce it. That law empowers citizens like me to do things to protect the water. The citizens of this country own the water.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The other thing is that the law needs to be broadened and strengthened to include nonpoint sources. It's hard to believe, but it's true, in North Carolina we have 10 million hogs. We are the number two producer of hogs, the number one producers of turkeys, and the number two producer of chickens. Those 10 million hogs are producing the equivalent feces and urine of all the people in the States of New York and California combined. It's stored in open pits. It's not disinfected before it's thrown on fields. Those fields are all ditched to carry runoff to streams, creeks, and rivers. What's really frightening is that 80 to 90 percent of all the nitrogen produced by animals: chickens, turkeys, and hogsI don't know about chickens and turkeys, it may be a little less percentagebut on hogs, according to USDA, 80 percent of all the nitrogen produced by those animals is discharged to the environment as ammonia gasthat's another form of nitrogen. It travels about 62 miles and 100 percent of it is redeposited on their church yards, their school yards, our rivers, and our forests.
Rivers do not have an assimilative capacity. They do not. One of the mistakes we have made in this great country of ours is that we have assumed that they do. That we can put pollutants into water, into rivers and streams, without degradation. We've done that with pipes to the river called point sources, and agricultural runoff that we've allowed to get into the river. If we want to save ourselves from Pfiesteria and other micro-organisms like it, we must realize that rivers do not have an assimilative capacity. Nature sets up a balance for them and everything we do to them upsets that balance.
Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Dove may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mr. Dove. Your testimony has been very compelling. I'm going to yield first to Mr. Jones, because he has to leave for another appointment. So Walter, you're recognized.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JONES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have a couple of questions of the secretary of North Carolina as well as Mr. Dove.
Mr. Secretary, would you please tell the panel how much money the State of North Carolina has invested in the areas of trying to deal with the water problems, whether it be Pfiesteria or other problems that we might have had in the seven years since the State has become aware of it?
Mr. MCDEVITT. I'm not sure I have those numbers for seven years. I can tell you that during the last two years, that number is in the range of $147 million of State money. That includes a Clean Water Management Trust Fund. We put about 6 1/2 percent of remaining funds after the budget is complete into a fund and that's anywhere from $40 to $50, $55 million a year. And, in addition to that, we just, of course, passed the Clean Water Responsibility Act. We've significantly increased our ag share program, working with the farmers on BMPs and so forth; so, $147 million if you total that.
Mr. JONES. Let mein a statement that Mr. Dove made and I want the panel to understandthe Committee, excuse methat farming is important in North Carolina. It is a way of life, it is a way of people earning a living. And I think that the State of North Carolina, Mr. Secretary, I'd like you to speak to this, has tried to find that balance between the hog industry, as far as responsibilities shared, in an effort to try to ensure that we are protecting our waters.
Mr. MCDEVITT. Yes, the thing that we certainly know is that we have a nutrient problem in the lower Neuse. I mean, all of us know that, and we have a serious problem there, and there's enoughthe causes are both point source and non-point source. Theyit's everything, Congressman, from the agricultural industry to municipalities, industry, homeowners, developers, golf courses, sedimentation control problems, urban runoff, and all of us share in that problem, and all of us share in the responsibility of fixing that problem. In theover the past few years, weI don't know how deep the debt is, but in terms of a natural trust, in terms of the natural trust that we hold, and we must pass on, we've borrowed a little too deep into that trust, and we've got to pay back, and we've got to pay that back now, and we must understand that, and that goes across the board, Congressman. I think all of us share in that.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We in North Carolina, in this past legislative session, we established a moratorium on expansion or new hog farms, and we believe that during that moratorium, we can establish, hopefully, more clearlywe're doing research relative to odor; relative to nutrient load, and during that moratoriumand that's not enough; we've got to do morebut during that moratorium, we hope to use that time to do the research necessary to clearly establish where some of the responsibilities lie. We know that it's all of us.
Mr. JONES. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, if I could ask Mr. Dove just a couple of questions? I'd like to start with this leg with the sore on it. If you could tell the panelthe Committee a little bit about this individual, and if you wouldas you talked to me a little bit earlierabout the concern that you have that there are many people in the State that possibly are sick because of this problem, and, obviously, you made in your statement a concern that maybe the Stateand I think that's very helpful with the Secretary being hereyour comments about maybe the State not doing as much as you would like to see them do, and maybe other people feel the same way. Could you speak to this just briefly?
Mr. DOVE. Yes, sir, I will, Congressman. Those sores are on the leg of a man by the name of Roy Rice. He is a clammer. He spends physical time in the water, not in a boat, over the top of it, but actually walking in the water; he gets wet a lot. He's fished in the Neuse River; he also fishes the inside water of the outerbanks. If he wears protective clothing, like a glove on one hand, he doesn't get the sores where he stays covered, but in all areas of exposure he get the sores. He's had memory loss to the point where he's not been able to find his way home in his own neighborhood. He can'tlike so many fishermen and so many others, he cannot afford a doctor, so he's never been to a doctor that I know of, but he did ask the State to have somebody take a look at him, and we actually asked the State, epidemiologist, Dr. Stanley Music, and introduced this man to him personally. He's also been on national television, this individual, to have somebody take a look at him. To my knowledge, he's never been examined.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm not a doctor or scientist; I can't know and do not know whether these people are getting sick from Pfiesteria in the water, but I can tell you that my judgment is that the sores look the same; the symptoms are the same, and as I look at the experience in Maryland and what has been discovered there, what's been happening in North Carolina is echoing what has been reported out in Maryland where they have documented these illnesses. But we've never had a team of doctors; we've asked for itthere are noto go down on the Neuse and the Tar-Pamlico and actually examine these people as they did in Maryland. We've been asking for that since 1995. There are no protocols for local doctors in Newborn, Elizabeth City; anywhere along the coast to report to the health director, to my knowledge, these illnesses that these people are reporting, so we've got a lot of work to do. I would like to point out, Congressman, that the health department in North Carolina is not under Secretary McDevitt; it's under a different secretary.
Mr. JONES. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Walter. I yield to Mr. Castle.
Mr. CASTLE. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just listening to this whole conversation, this morning and this afternoon, it seems to me thatas I think Mr. Dove said or one of you said, at leastthat Pfiesteria is only a symptom of pollution, and I think that's correct, and I worry about theI guess we're dealing with the point source better than we used to, but I'd be curious as to the views of any of you, with respect to the different groups, the larger groups which may be involved in non-point source problems: the poultry industry, the agricultural industry, the golf course makers, the towns and the non-point part of what they do, the runoff from roads, whatever it may be. Are we getting cooperation? Are we moving up on that? I mean, ultimately, we may solve this problem without ever really being able to identify, truly, what the problem is if we can do better in those areas, and I know when I was governor, we kept trying to push this, and I'm sure all of your governors are as well, and I just wonder if you could give me a State update of how you feel we're doing in those areas?
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TULOU. I'll take a first shot at it. There are a lot of initiatives going on in, I presume, all of the States to deal with that whole suite of problems: working with municipalities; with sediment and storm water control programs; dealing with the agricultural community through best management practices and in investments through cost share programs; a variety of manure management and dead poultry techniques, for example.
I think the biggest problems we have right now are: one, land use and the associated increase in population that's going along with it; more and more pressure being applied on the system, and I'm not sure our measures are keeping up, and I think the other thing that we need to continue to work on is our ability to measure what the effectiveness of these variety of programs is, because I can foresee a day when we are going to have to consider a course of action far beyond what we have already engaged those parties with, and we're going to need some good, solid foundation to justify those actions.
I would imagine, as John Griffin mentioned, and certainly some frustration in North Carolina too, with all this activity that has taken place through the years under the Clean Water Act to deal with point sources, and we're starting to deal in some ways with non-point sources, a great deal of frustration that we're beginning to see some problems instead of seeing the old ones go away, so there's a tremendous amount of effort that's left to be undertaken.
Mr. CASTLE. Anybody want to add to that quickly, and we can
Mr. GRIFFIN. Yes, I would say, Congressman, our experience in Marylandthey're still pretty much in the nascent stages on addressing urban runoff. I mean, it's true, we've had more sediment and storm water control programs implemented primarily through our government since the mid-eighties, but that's really addressing redevelopment or new development. In the unchartered waters, we've really not done quite a lot, or much at all yet, as retrofitting: coming into areas that are already developed and figuring out how to deal with runoff of urban areas.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On the agricultural side, we certainly made a major effort, through our Department of Agriculture, to reach out to the farming community and enlist their support, and we spent a lot of money both in terms of staff and cost sharing. I think what this issue raises is not necessarily the good will or intentions of us to the farming community members as much as it raises issues with how effective our thinking has been about how best to control some of the runoff, some of the animal waste. And the science is changing on us. You may have heard earlier the phenomenon in scientific thinking that phosphorous was bound up in the soil particles and now that's not the thought, and that changes dramatically how you approach runoff. But in general, I think that we've come farther in terms of a foundation with the farming community interest than we have with urban Maryland, if you will, and that's an area that we need to spend a lot more time on as well.
Mr. CASTLE. But I worry a little bit that we're sort of burying our heads in the sand, and so are some of the different groups, they're all saying, ''Well, don't look at us,'' and I doubt if any one of them is the sole factor that we have these problems be they low oxygen problems or Pfiesteria problems or whatever, but the bottom line is that in the aggregate those problems still exist, and we have to have the courage to stand up and say we need to talk about this in a good communication sense, and this business of saying, ''Well, leave them alone'' is probably not healthy in the long term for their industry or for solving these problems.
Let me jump to another question, I only have a moment here. And that is, do you have any comments concerning what the Federal Government is doing or should be doing? My view isI'm not, as I said earlier, you've probably heard from my other questionsbut I'm not interested in funding a series of different research centers in different States or whatever. I'm interested in solving the problem. I'd just as soon have all of you together, talking with everybody who is knowledgeable about this, and my question is are we doing the right things at the Federal Government level? Are there other things that we should be doing, either with existing funds and programs or different funds and programs? Any thoughts along those lines? I mean, that's the one thing we can really control here.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCDEVITT. Congressman, I think, first of all, just these kinds of hearings, the kind of attention, often, in order to make the tough decisions, it requires a number of things, and sometimesI don't know what all it requiresbut sometimes, through magic, we're able to have the kind of legislative session we just had in North Carolina, but most importantly, it takes public will, and thisand these kinds of hearings, media attention, those kinds of things; having people like Rick Dove always calling on you and saying, ''Do you need to do more?'' That'sI must tell you, that's helpful. In my seventy-some days, he's become a friend and a colleague.
But to answer your question, certainly, we need a lot of money and research, and we must knowwe've got to know what we don't know about Pfiesteria, but beyond that, some assistance with innovative ways to treat animal waste; assistance with new technologies and new ways to look at the treatment of animal waste, I think, is important. Looking at the Clean Water Act, not only in terms of reauthorizing but also looking at what we can do in terms of non-point source, I think is something in the bigger picture that we can look at.
LastI had a role in the coordination of North Carolina's response to following the Fran, Hurricane Fran, in North Carolina. There was a tremendous loss to North Carolina, and as I think about that response and how we very quickly went into a mode in North Carolina and very quickly knew who our Federal partners were and how we could enter a system that's sometimes confusing and complex, and get things done in a very short period of time, perhaps, we ought to look at that model, and that model of partnership and, perhapsI don't want to say that level of emergency, but, certainly, a level of urgency. And, so I think justand I feel that now. We know more now than we've knownyou know, we know more today than knew yesterday, but I do believe that those are just some thoughts I would have relative to that.
Mr. TULOU. Just very quickly, if I could, add to that. I think that through all the testimony that I've heard during the course of this hearing, we already have ample evidence that people believe that a coordinated approach is important, and we also have a lot of evidence that a coordinated approach has already been taken, and I think that, for example, the Centers for Disease Control, EPA, the National Marine Fishery Service, The Fish and Wildlife Service, and congressional action; some of the initiatives that you and Congressman Gilchrest have been engaged in terms of finding resources have always been geared towards a regional approach and some coordination in terms of coming to a resolution of the problem, and I think that's to be commended. I don't see a real problem there, but I think that the coordination is more important than the money, and I don't know how best to make sure that's happening, but certainly the oversight of this Subcommittee would be very helpful to make sure that EPA's talking to the Department of Commerce and NOAA and the Centers for Disease Control, and if we can continue to do that, I suspect at the State level, we'll doing our share of insisting on that as well. We're already coordinating and talking, and I think that that will continue.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CASTLE. Well, let me just close, if I may, Mr. Chairman, by just saying that I agree with what you've stated. I think you probably have more depth of knowledge than I do about the programs. In fact, Wayne and I were talking a little bit, walking over to the votes, that it's fine to pass amendments and do this and do that and get money here and there, but it's not a coordinated approach. We aren't solving the problem the way we should, and I think it's very important that we continue that communication, and I would like to thank Rick Dove for his involvement and for being here. We have some Rick Doves in Delaware too, and sometimes I'm happy to hear from them, and sometimes I say, ''Boy, they're pushing me a little further than I'm ready for.''
Mr. CASTLE. But it's people like you who make a difference.
Mr. DOVE. Can I add just one quick comment in response to your question?
Mr. CASTLE. Certainly.
Mr. DOVE. One of the problems the State's have is that down in the trenchesnow, you're talking about this coordinated effort and all; that's greatbut down in the trenches is where it happens and doesn't happen, and when you talk about cleaning up pollution, what's tough for the States is that the guy's with the biggest buckswell, they all point to the other guy. When you go to them and say, ''You're doing this, and you need to fix it''everybody wants a clean river, but they want the other guy to fix it, and then they begin to employ the lobbyists and everything else so they don't have to do their fair share.
On the Federal level, if you strengthen the Federal Clean Water Act, you will make it easy for the Wayne McDevitts of this world, the governors across the United States, to actually get this job done. I think that's why it's so important that you do that. We need to stop this finger pointing. Congressman Jones was right, farmers are important to North Carolina; nobody wants to see them go away, but we want to see hog lagoons go away; we want to see open storage of chicken and turkey waste go away, and we want to see waste water treatment plants reducetake their pipes out of the river wherever possible, and then certainly reduce their nitrogen discharge to the technology available.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CASTLE. Thank you very much.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mike. I'm going to ask a few questions, and if you have a few more in the next five minute cycle, the panel doesn't look like they want to leave anytime soon, so we'll enjoy the Nation's Capitol.
Mr. Dove, I'd like to follow up on that one point, your comments earlier and your comments now about strengthening the Food and Water Act and giving the governors the Federal regulations that they need to push some of these non-point source pollution concerns a little harder. If we could put that aside, just for a second, using the experience that we've had here, whether it's Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, or wherever, could you sort of summarize to us the collective responsibility of those in a position to deal with non-point source pollution, but chose not to deal with non-point source pollution, whether it's out or notI'm talking about the planning commissioner of every county, the county executive, the county administrator, the local delegates to the general assembly, the governor of the State, their department of the environment, their department of fish and game, or whatever? Do you have some sense of the collective responsibility of those people regardless of the Clean Water Act and the Federal role, who, out of a misunderstanding or out of direct misuse of their power, chose not to deal with this non-point source pollution?
Mr. DOVE. Mr. Chairman, I can. I think it all comes down to dollars. The real client involved is the water; fixing the water. Everybody should be taking care of that client which is the water, but, instead, others creep in as the client: the farmers, the industrial guys, the developers. They all become the clients, and all of sudden we begin to take care of them and take care of their needs to the detriment of the real client which is the water, and Secretary McDevitt and I had conversations about that.
When a crisis comes up on the lower Neuse, there's great economic suffrage going on on the Neuse River; beautiful river; it's a treasure. We ought to be doing so well along the Neuse River because of the beauty of this river, and, instead, we're losing business; fisherman are going out of business, can't make a living; same experience as in Maryland, but what happens when that takes place is that local county governments begin to respond taking pipes out of the river as they have at Newborn; developing plans to begin to take care of the river, but while that happens on the local level, it's almost impossible to move it up stream to take it to the small towns that go further and further upstream. So, it's, again, we're serving the wrong client. A lot of times we're taking care of waste water treatment plants, allowing cities to growyou know that old statement, ''We got to keep growing and growing and growing.'' Well,
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. It's almost like an oxymoron.
Mr. DOVE. It is.
Mr. GILCHREST. I guess what you're saying then is what we're talking about, the collaboration between Federal, State, and local agencies and universities, in order to understand the nature of Pfiesteria, that same kind of collaboration needs to be done if we're looking at Federal laws as far as the environmental solutions are concerned and environmental regulations.
I'd like to just take this thought one step further, and ask the three secretaries, basicallyI'm going to ask this question, because, on the one hand, I don't know how big the Neuse River is. I don't know how to compare it to the Pocomoke Sound or the Pocomoke River or James Creek or the Chesapeake Bay, but one thing is very striking and that's a billion fish in one year, I guess.
Mr. DOVE. In a matter of a couple of months.
Mr. GILCHREST. In a matter of couple months. I'm looking at a billion fish in one area and maybeyou made a comment about 300,000 at another time, and I'm looking at 50,000, maybe, in Maryland, and, maybe, 50,000 in Delaware a few years ago. What role should secretary of the Department of Natural Resourceswhat is their responsibility to responding to a crisis like this? Do theyare they subject toare you subject to political pressure? Everybody's subject to political pressure, but how far should a secretary of the Department of Natural Resources go to respond to a crisis? Is there a limit to the number of people they should talk to? Should they take in the political considerations, economic considerations, hysterical considerations? What's the specific role of the secretary in responding in a timely fashion, comprehensive fashion, to an incident in the State, whether it's 50,000 fish or a billion fish?
You've got 15 seconds.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCDEVITT. Fifteen seconds. First of all, I would say that I believe that the public should have confidence in their public officials. They should be confident that their public officials, whether that's the secretary of the departmentit should not be about me, the secretary, or about the governor, it ought to be about doing the right thing. It ought to be about having a systemic approach and partnership in place that allows us to do the right thing and has the protocol so that we do the right thing at the right moment. But it's also about leadership; stepping forward and doing the right thing and providing that leadership. I believe that that's the case. I know that we must depend on good science to make good decisions. I'm not a scientist, but I believe, as my friend from Maryland believes, that good public policy sometimes just must be ahead of absolute science. We've got to step out there, and whatever risk that iswe must also consider, though, making sure that we're not creatingwe've got to be responsible that we're not creating hysteria; that we're not creating undue pressures on certain economies. I know we've readand I know it's anecdotalbut we've read about the numbers of and the impact of this on some of our markets, and we must be responsible as we go through these urgent matters.
The other thing I would say is that gaining consensus on these kinds of things, particularly, nutrient controls, whether it's point source or non-point source, as Rick said, gaining consensus on that is very difficult, andvery quicklythere are lots of parties at the table, and there are a lot of decision makers in that process, but gaining that consensus is very difficult. It's also incumbent upon us, as leaders, to get out there and provide the leadership to gain that consensus. We feel like that in North Carolina, we're beginning to get the kind of tools necessary to do the job. We've got to do a lot more, but we're beginning to get the kind of tools to begin to do the job and do it well and
Mr. GILCHREST. Can I ask, Mr. McDevittand I don't want to pick on North Carolina; I spent two wonderful years in North Carolina at Camp LeJune, one of the finest places
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Laughter.]
Mr. GILCHREST. [continuing] one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth.
Mr. MCDEVITT. They have a great environmental program there, too, I might add.
Mr. GILCHREST. Got to keep those copperheads alive.
If I could just askmy time has expired, andMike, do you have any more questions? All right, I'm going to go to Mike after this quick question. Any of the other secretaries can answer this.
One ofwe're talking about sewage treatment plants, runoff from streets, runoff from lawns, air deposition, ag runoff, a whole range of things, and some dramatic changes, probably, have to occur in a relatively short period of time, so have to know how to transition ourselves into those fairly dramatic changes. One of the dramatic changes, it seems to meand Ken Staver's here from the University of Maryland and the Wye Institute who has done some very fine research on agriculture and nutrients, and for about 10 yearsKen can correct me for any mistakes I make while I'm up herefor about 10 years, it's been fairly evident that phosphorous becomes dissolved; moves along the surface with rain water, and so that there's a number of areas, for example, on the Eastern shore where soil has exceeded its capacity to process any more of that phosphorous, so it moves into the water.
Mr. McDevitt, you mentioned that there are going to have to be some changes in agricultural practices to reduce this nutrient runoff. Nitrogen is one of those things that we, in Maryland, have been pretty aggressive with, but now we're going to have to transition into understanding how we can control phosphorous which is a little bit more complex. Is North Carolina, in your ag program, going to consider phosphorous? I think it alsoone last little commentI think this is going to be a national issue, so it's not the fact that Maryland has to deal with it or North Carolina has to deal with it or Delaware has to deal with it, it's on a fast track to becoming a national standard. Do you have any comment on phosphorous as far as the hog farms are concerned?
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCDEVITT. Let me ask Dr. Thorpe toif he wouldto respond to that particular question of phosphorous.
Mr. THORPE. Well, we would certainly agree that we shouldn't just focus all of our attention on nitrogenexcuse me while I try to get a little comfortable here.
Mr. THORPE. We recognized in North Carolina in the mid-eighties that phosphorous was a problem in the Neuse River. We put restrictions on waste water treatment plants at that time, and in 1987 there was a ban put in place by the general assembly on phosphate detergents that, overall, reduced the discharge of phosphorous from waste water treatment plants by about 50 percent. As far as agricultural operations are concerned, we have focused primarily on nitrogen, because nitrogen is very soluble, and it's very mobile in the environment, and that's been our focus so far in the rules that we've been trying to get put into place in the Neuse River basin.
Mr. GILCHREST. It's a difficult question, because we don't have the complete answer to it yet, either, and we've focused on nitrogen. Phosphorous, however, it seems to me, that this is a dramatic change that we have to transition into, and I'm not going to say the farmers are going to control phosphorous by January or even next year, because we have large piles of manure that nobody wants. And where does it go? And it adds a great deal of confusion to the farming community, and talk about wanting to develop trust between ourselves and the public, we don't want to throw a 98-mile an hour curve ball at anybody at this point, but it just seems to me that the phosphorous issue is an issue that every single State in the country, especially those areas that have large concentrated feed operations, are going to have to deal aggressively with it, because if we're going to enforce all the provisions which have been here earlier of the Clean Water Act, then the total allowable daily load, if that's enforced, then we have to have an answer and a solution to the phosphorous problem.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But I sort of just raise that as an issue that, certainly, is upthe level of that issue is here, now, in Washington, and that's being discussed aggressively, but if the States don't begin the process of coming up with solutions to what you're going to deal with the animalhow you're going to deal with the animal waste; how you're going to redistribute it; whether you incinerate it; whether you feed something to the hogs and chickens that doesn't produce as much phosphorous; all of these issues areyou know, the public is looking to us for answers.
Mr. THORPE. If I could, I would like to mention that part of what we have proposed to do in the Neuse River basin is to put into place some mandatory controls on agricultural operations that would require them to go through nutrient management training, and to put into place nutrient management plans and waste management plans that do require the farmers and the operators of agricultural intensive livestock operations to control both nitrogen and phosphorous through those mechanisms.
Mr. GILCHREST. I'm going to thank you very much. We'll try to make sure there's a chair there next time you answer a question.
Mr. GILCHREST. I'm going to yield, now, to the gentleman from Delaware.
Mr. CASTLE. Well, just briefly, and this ismaybe I should have asked this beforeI think Dr. Burkholder's still herebut I waslow oxygen bubbles were mentioned, and I was wondering about the relationshipand I guess there's a relationship in that there's water, and there's, maybe, too many nutrients and that kind of thingbut is there any possible relationship between this low oxygen bubble issue and the issue of Pfiesteria outbreaks?
Mr. BADEN. Yes, let me address that, just briefly. First of all, I think we're talking about coastal pollution; somehow we got away from Pfiesteria and into more nutrient enriched areas and making the assumption that all the science is in that nutrient enrichment is, indeed, responsible for Pfiesteria, and if you look along with the Pfiesterial blooms in these areas and in North Carolina, we're talking about other types of organisms that are also toxic: peridiniopsyoid organisms, gyrodiniums, that also cause fish kills, the Pfiesteria, of course in Maryland fish farms, and scripsiella-type organisms.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, all of those individual organisms have different types of nutrient requirements, and, as I made in my testimony, some are adversely affected; some are promoted by increased nutrients, and we have to be very careful, because if weI think that reducing the nutrients is a wonderful and the Clean Water Act and all of that, but I'm not so sure that once we do that, you may just have cleaner water to see your Pfiesteria.
So, you know, we have to be a little bit careful, and at the same time, study that organism in detail to know about the nutrient requirements, and that goes directly to the Chairman's comments about phosphorous with phosphorous being limiting in most of these environments; There is enough phosphorous in all stages of the bloom, but each individual organism is different in its requirements.
Mr. DOVE. Excuse me, but, Congressman, can I answer that question that you had based upon what I've seen on the Neuse River?
Mr. CASTLE. I'd be also interested in knowing what causes the low oxygen bubbles. I mean is itas scientifically as you can say it, too. Maybe I don't understand that.
Mr. DOVE. Yes, sir. I can give you the non-scientific explanation, but maybe it will be the easiest one to understand, because it's been explained to me so many times, is that when you have nutrients that get into the water on the low oxygen sidewhen you have nutrients that get into the water, they cause things to grow in the water in larger numbers than they would on ground, because water's more sensitive to nutrients. When those things grow, especially algae from the plants, they photosynthesize during the day, and produce a lot of oxygen in the water, but at night they respire, because there's no sunlight, and they suck the oxygen out of the water like a vacuum cleaner, and on the Neuse River we can see millions of fish of all sizes up in one inch of water just trying to work their gills to get through the night; get enough oxygen to make it through the night; a lot of times they don't. When the sun comes back up, the oxygen returns, because the plants begin to photosynthesize again. When you have too many nutrients, and you have too many things growing, then you upset that balance, and that causes the oxygen to be depleted.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But the answer to your question earlier, sir, from my observations on the river, there is no relationship between low oxygen levels and Pfiesteria. The reason I say that is that I have been watching this river very closely, and the Neuse River is a good area to observe Pfiesteria; it's where the largest kills have occurred. In the summertime, in the months of June and July, when the oxygen levels begin to drop, July, even into August, fish do die from oxygen losses, but they don't show sores, and you don't normally find Pfiesteria in the water samples, but then the oxygen levels return to normal in September, October, November, even into December, and that is always when we've had our largest fish kills on the Neuse River. Now, I've heard some scientists say that, ''Well, gee, when the oxygen levels get down, the fish get wounded, they get hurt, and then they're more susceptible to Pfiesteria,'' but that is not my observation of watching it out in the river, sir.
Mr. CASTLE. Well, it would sound to memaybe Dr. Burkholder wants to commentit would sound to me as if thewhile they may be different problems, a lot of the causes are the same, if not identical, based on what I'm hearing from here.
Ms. BURKHOLDER. I think that's true. Some of the organisms that Dr. Baden referred, in fact, most of them are autotrophs, that is, they're algae, and they tend to be stimulated, in general, by nutrients to some degree. In terms of Pfiesteria and Pfiesteria-like cousins, so far the experiments we've done have indicated that they can be strongly stimulated by high nutrient enrichments especially in poorly flushed areas, but the dissolved oxygen connection, as Mr. Dove points out, is only indirectly present. Pfiesteria-like species, including piscacida, feed upon algae many times when fish are not available, and when there are lot of nutrients that stimulate a lot of algae, then there will be a lot of Pfiesteria waiting for schools of fish to come up estuary. When dissolved oxygen has been low because of all those algal blooms taking the oxygen and robbing the oxygen from the water at night so that fish can't breathe, you often find Pfiesteria in those areas. I think that fish that are stressed are easier targets for Pfiesteria, but they don't have to be stressed for Pfiesteria to kill them. We've lost 1.2 million fish this year on the Pamlico, on the Neuse estuaries in combination in North Carolina, during June and July, before low dissolved oxygen even came into our bottom waters.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CASTLE. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity of participating today.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Mike. Dr. Baden, you're from Florida.
Mr. BADEN. Correct, University of Miami.
Mr. GILCHREST. Have you had similaris there anyhave you seen any of these similar type fish kills in the estuary along Florida? When was your first association with the incident of Pfiesteria in North Carolina, and how was that evaluated in your lab? Could you give us some idea as toI asked this to, I think, Mr. Garcia, earlier on the panelthere has apparently been a regime of research over the last six months that is recognizing the existence of Pfiesteria or Pfiesteria complex without understanding, I would guess, the nature of the chemical makeup of the toxin and what exactly that does and what causes the Pfiesteria to go into that particular stage. So, the third question I haveif you can remember the first two, because I don't
Mr. GILCHREST. [continuing] the third question I have, is do you have some idea as to when this research can come up, after peer reviewed, to some conclusion?
Mr. BADEN. Okay, the answer to your first question as referred to when was it first seen in Florida? The organism is present in Florida. We do not, as of yet, to my knowledge, have major fish kills that we have characteristically identified with a Pfiesteria organism, but we do have a very similar organism in Florida; that's the first question.
The second question referring to the Pfiesteria outbreaks in North Carolina, I've been associated with Dr. Burkholder and with Dr. Noga since 1991 in working on Pfiesteria toxins, and Ialong this line, I guess I can say that in the case of toxic purifications and characterizations, one of the critical elementswell, actually there are three critical elements: they're are material, material, and material. And in that regard with a Pfiesteria organism we have massive cultures of this organism in order to be able to characterize the toxin, and let me explain. In the case of paralytic shellfish poisoning, back in the forties, fifties, and sixties, there was a tremendous amount of saxitoxin, the principal organismor the principal toxin that was isolated
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. When was that year again?
Mr. BADEN. 1945, fifties.
Mr. GILCHREST. Where was that?
Mr. BADEN. This wasactually, it was off the coast of British Columbia. It was done by Dr. Ed Shantz and Carl Medcof, and in the case of paralytic shellfish poison, it took something on the order of 45 milligrams of toxin to get a true structure characterization. In the case of the brevetoxins, which are the Florida redexidetoxins, done by Nakanichis' group at Columbia, it took 91 milligrams of brevitoxin to get enough material to get structure. In the case of Pfiesteria toxins, even in purified state, we're still dealing with microgram amounts, thousands of times less than we need to do a chemical characterization. Now, that may be a little bit puzzling, but if you consider that the pharmacologythe reason that we call these things toxins is because they kill at such low concentrations, then one can say that we're going to have the pharmacology and all of the toxicology done long before we have the chemical structure.
So, a long answer to the question, and, finally, when will that be done? There are actually more than one toxin that are probably named Pfiesteria. There is the water soluble, highly polar material that Dr. Ramsdell from National Marine Fishery talked about that they're working on with the intramural program at NIEHS and Dr. Burkholder.
Mr. GILCHREST. Do you think having, let's say, 50,000 fish killed in the Pocomoke River, I guess, doesn't give us enough of the toxin to be able to analyze it, but wouldn't you get enough of the toxin from a billion fish? There's no relationship there?
Mr. BADEN. Mr. Chairman, it's not necessarily associated with the fish. It's the concentration of the organism in toxic form at the time of the fish kill.
Mr. GILCHREST. Well, that's what I mean, but then it'sI mean, if you have a billion fish killed, it seems to me that there's more than little tiny Pfiesteria out there than if you have 50,000 fish killed.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BADEN. Not necessarily true, and in fact
Mr. GILCHREST. Not necessarily true?
Mr. BADEN. Not necessarily true, and, in fact, it's the cultures of the organism in laboratory culture where you can control clonal isolates so you know what you're working with takes a lot of material, and we're not at that stage, but we do have materials that cause lesions very similar to what are seen in the fish in purified form. There are also compounds of these more highly polar materials that are, we believe, responsible for neurological
Mr. GILCHREST. So, since 1991, you've been collecting this material?
Mr. BADEN. Since 1991, we have been receiving extracts from Dr. Burkholder's laboratory and from Dr. Noga's laboratory on an intermittent basis in order to do that work.
Mr. GILCHREST. But, then, are you still collecting it or have you done something with it?
Mr. BADEN. Mr. Chairman, in the matter of collecting if, each extract that is placed in our hands, we go through a series of purification steps, basically, throwing away non-toxic material and amassing toxic material, and each time you do this, you get one step or two steps further into purification. Most of these purifications take 8 to 10 steps to yield homogeneous materials that can then be studied by spectroscopy which is the chemists' tools. We are nearly at that stage with the lipid soluble materials that come from Pfiesteria; the ones that cause the sores on fish.
Mr. GILCHREST. Dr. Burkholder, do you want to comment on any of that? Do you have an idea when you'll have enough of this stuff in a jar?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. Well, Dr. Baden's points are well taken. We, however, have made a lot of progress with folks in the last three months in getting these toxins characterized, so it is beginning to proceed much faster than in the past five years.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. Why is it proceeding faster in the last three months than it did in the last five years?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. I'm not really certain, because I'm not a toxin analyst. I think that the people at Nims Charleston's Marine Biotoxins Center, and, perhaps, Dr. Baden, can comment further on that at this time, but I know that a lot of effort has been poured into it by our colleagues at the biotoxins center, for example.
Mr. GILCHREST. Where was that again? In Norfolk?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. That was in Charleston.
Mr. GILCHREST. Charleston.
Mr. BADEN. Well, let me address that. We're now presently working with Dr. Ed Noga who was Dr. Burkholder's co-principle investigator on National Marine Fisheries Service, Saltonstall-Kennedy grants in the past; Saltonstall-Kennedy grants that were aimed at studying the organism as well as looking at toxin structure, and it was our subcontract responsibility from those two agreements to work on the toxins, and so we are totally at the disposal of the people that supply us with extracts in order to do the work, and we have not simply had sufficient extract from Dr. Burkholder's laboratory in order to pursue that. We have had some better success with Dr. Noga's lab over the past year and are now making rapid progress in the lipid soluble, the other toxin that's produced by this organism. We're working on different materials at this point.
Mr. GILCHREST. Dr. Burkholder?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. Yes, I will comment further that some of this seems to be a problem just in getting these toxins inventories properly, at least according to Dr. Baden's research associate, whom I spoke with in August. Some of the batches of toxins that we sent apparently were lost and then re-recovered, so they were on the bottom of a freezer or something like that.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GILCHREST. Are they still good?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. I'm sure they are. It's just that we have been sending toxin through NIHS' intramural program to Dr. Baden, and we haven't received word back yet about what those toxins yield, so probably because there was some confusion there
Mr. GILCHREST. They weren't lost in the mail, were they?
Ms. BURKHOLDER. No, they were apparently either inventoried and then forgotten about or somehow put to the bottom of a freezer according to the research associate.
Mr. GILCHREST. Is there sufficient communication, now, to avoid any
Ms. BURKHOLDER. I think there is.
Mr. BADEN. Well, Mr. Chairman, we're having excellent communication this afternoon. Let's hope it gets better. I must also say that the last material that Dr. Burkholder's group has sent to us is currently in progress in parallel with control materialcontrol, meaning non-toxic materialsent from Dr. Noga as well as Dr. Noga's extract. We're at the stage where we have non-toxic, toxic from Noga, toxic from Burkholder. Are they the same or are they different? In very short order, we will know that.
Mr. GILCHREST. That's great. We have a vote. Did you have any other comment, Mike? The rest of the day's going to be a little bit more hectic for us, and I would really like to hold all of you here for a few more hours, but that may not be possible. I hope to remain in communication with all of you so we can continue to move forward and ensure that the cooperation and the collaboration is at the highest level that is possible among people trying to figure out these complex problems. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all very much for coming.
This meeting is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:23 p.m., the Subcommittee adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.]
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Additional material submitted for the record follows.]
STATEMENT OF DONALD F. BOESCH, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE, CAMBRIDGE, MARYLAND
I am Donald Boesch, President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. My perspective on today's subject is influenced heavily by my recent or continuing service as chair of two scientific committees. Earlier this year, I led a panel of experts in the completion of a report entitled ''Harmful Algal Blooms in Coastal Waters: Options for Prevention, Control and Mitigation'' which was requested by the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce. More recently, I have been called on by Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin, who will be speaking to you later, to chair a Technical Advisory Committee to advise the State's agencies in their assessment of our fish lesion/fish kill problem about which you have heard so much about.
Although I am an ecological generalist rather than an expert on toxic dinoflagellates, I have learned a lot about these organisms over the last year from bona fide experts such as Dr. Burkholder, who have worked with me on these committees. Moreover, I work extensively in the Chesapeake Bay and in other parts of our country in the application of science in the solution of environmental problems and in guiding effective research. From these vantage points, I am pleased to offer my opinions on what is known about the effects of these toxic organisms, the role of human activities in stimulating them, and future research needs and approaches.
The Prevention, Control and Mitigation assessment which I mentioned earlier focused not on the basic science needsthat had been done in earlier planning reportsbut on what could be done to alleviate the ill effects of harmful algal blooms, such as those that cause paralytic and amnesic shellfish poisoning, red and brown tides, and catastrophic losses of aquacultured fish. Unfortunately, we did not also include Pfiesteria. I am providing copies of our report for the Subcommittee. Our report concluded that although pollution and nutrient enrichment have been strongly implicated in worsening harmful algal blooms in various parts of the world, they have not yet been unequivocally identified as the cause of any of the U.S. blooms considered in our assessment. Nontheless, we concluded that conscientious pursuit of goals for reduction of pollution, especially excess nutrients, could well yield positive results in terms of reductions in harmful algal blooms.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In terms of research needs, suffice it here to say that our conclusions also included recommendations for issues related to prevention and control that should be addressed by fundamental research and a specific call for expanded Federal research directly addressing prevention, control and mitigation. Should include: evaluation of the effectiveness and side-effects of chemical, physical and biological controls; development of better measurements of toxins and harmful algal species for application in monitoring; ballast water treatment; and effects of chronic exposure on human health.
Turning now to the Chesapeake, let me summarize briefly where we are. First, after evaluating a variety of potential causes of the fish lesions that were first observed in the Pocomoke River last fall, it now appears highly likely that many of these lesions, as well as the fish kills that were witnessed this summer, were caused by toxins released by Pfiesteria piscicida or one of two other dinoflagellates that have been identified. In addition, medical researchers have documented skin rashes and reduced efficiency in short term memory function in now over two dozen individuals exposed to the river water. This has raised concern by a quantum and resulted in a variety of steps to ensure the protection of public health. I am sure that Secretary Griffin will be happy to tell you more about this.
The scientific team and advisors are turning their attention in particular to the environmental conditions that promote the outbreaks of toxic forms of Pfiesteria-like organisms, not only so that we can predict where they may occur and appropriately protect the public, but that we can better control human activities that may stimulate them. As you know, nutrient over enrichment, particularly from agricultural sources, has been suspected. Maryland Governor Parris Glendening has charged a Blue Ribbon Citizens Pfiesteria Commission to recommend steps that can be taken to reduce the risks of Pfiesteria. More effective controls of nutrient losses from agricultural activities, including the disposition of poultry manure, are among the principal issues under review. Environmental and agricultural scientists from University of Maryland institutions are presently working with the Commission to develop scientific consensus regarding the relationships between nutrients and Pfiesteria-like organisms, review the effectiveness of present nutrient and waste management strategies, and lay out for the Commission potential improved strategies.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I believe that Dr. Burkholder would agree that we are still on the early part of the Pfiesteria learning curve. Her contributions have been truly monumental, but we have only had a small group of scientists working for about six years on these extremely complex organisms. With a stronger case now made because of documented health concerns and the greater number of regions potentially affectednot to mention the heightened national concern represented by media attentionclearly more research is required. And, there is certainly a major Federal responsibility for this research. I urge that Congress insist that it: is strategic in that research programs emphasize the most critical question; is integrated across agencies and disciplines; incorporates high standards of scientific quality and peer review; and is accountable in what will be expected to lead to clearer understanding and, to the extent possible, solutions.
From the perspective of Maryland's Technical Advisory Committee (which, by the way, includes experts from the Carolinas and Virginia) the environmental research priorities are: (1) resolving the relationship between land-based pollution, particularly by excess nutrients, and Pfiesteria-like organisms on scales from the cell to the watershed; (2) developing modern molecular methods for detection and quantification of toxins and organisms; (3) determining the effects of these toxic dinoflagellates on fish and shellfish populations (i.e. going beyond the effects on the health of an individual fish); and (4) determining the degree to which toxins may be retained in fish and shellfish tissues. In addition, of course, there are additional priorities for health and agricultural research.
In my opinion, an effective mechanism already exists for the support, direction and coordination of the needed environmental research in the form of the NOAA-led program on the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB). ECOHAB has already developed research strategies dealing with other harmful algal species based on planning by the scientific community. It is broadly focused and integrated, incorporating approaches from molecules to water circulation to ecosystems. A number of agencies already participate in ECOHAB, including EPA, the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation, in addition to NOAA. And, ECOHAB has an in-place management and review structure that accommodates the participation of both university and Federal-laboratory based scientists.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, I am pleased that the Federal agencies are preparing a coordinated response plan related to Pfiesteria. It is important that the appropriate health, environmental, and agricultural agencies be involved and that their contributions are in balance and in collaboration. Similarly, the university research community in the affected Mid-Atlantic and southeastern states includes incalculable talent; physical capabilities; experience with coastal environments, communities, and fishing and agricultural enterprises; and working relationships with the states. My colleagues and I not only stand ready to contribute these intellectual and physical resources, but also have been leading in the development of creative scientific strategies to address the problems. We look forward to working closely and cooperatively with the Federal agencies toward these ends.
STATEMENT OF DANIEL G. BADEN, PH.D.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Subcommittee for giving me this opportunity to address issues relating to the status of Federal and State research into Harmful Algal Blooms and in this context, to outbreaks of Pfeisteria.
Toxic marine phytoplankton are responsible for ''red tides'' or ''harmful algal blooms'' (HAB). HABs occur in virtually all coastal areas of temperate and tropical seas, and are responsible for five known types of seafood poisoning in man. Specific HAB incidents are often geographically localized but their occurrence is sporadic. As I speak, in addition to the Pfeisteria and other fish killer HABs in the mid-Atlantic region, Texas and other states on the Gulf of Mexico are experiencing Florida red tide outbreaks. These red tides are notorious for tons of dead fish per day per mile of coastline. All HABs are natural events induced or permitted by specific environmental conditions.
HABs are also implicated in mass marine mortalities known as epizootics. In the past 20 years red tide toxins have been implicated in the deaths of bottlenose dolphins in Hawaii, manatees in Florida, pilot whales in the Northeast U.S., pelicans on the U.S. West coast, cormorants and gannets (seabirds) on the East coast of the U.S., fish along the entire Gulf of Mexico coastline and also stretching from the Carolinas up to and including Maryland coastal zones. More tenuous links to HABs have been suggested for bottlenose dolphin mortalities on the Atlantic seaboard, sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and Hawaii, and monk seals in the Mediterranean Sea. As ''sentinel'' or indicator species in the oceans, marine animals are akin to the canaries taken into mine shaftstheir death or sickness is an indication of the degradation of local environmental conditions.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Questions concerning environmental parameters conducive to HAB development, maintenance, and termination test our oceanographic knowledge base. Questions concerning our ability to detect and/or predict blooms as they develop address components of marine biotechnology, coastal zone nutrient loads, and life cycle biology. Questions concerning effects on marine animals touch on aspects of biomedical research (that is using diagnostics and therapeutics developed for treating human HAB exposures), detection technologies, and whole animal physiology.
Federal and State programs that address each of these research questions individually are currently in place, but holistic research that addresses the interface between research areas is lacking. Thus, Departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture need to coordinate with one another and develop partnership funding strategies. All appropriate agencies should be involved.
Likewise, basic scientists, clinicians, oceanographers, ecologists and taxonomists all must develop better ways of interaction and communication, essentially by developing interdisciplinary approaches to their science. In other words, those activities that are land-oriented and those that are ocean or aquatic-oriented need to be coordinated in the coastal zone. Over half of the U.S. population resides within 50 miles of a coastline. It is in the coastal zone that HABs occur, that marine animal deaths have been documented, and that coastal nutrients are changing. Over the past decade, several dynamic interdisciplinary approaches to harmful algal bloom science have developed. But the coordinated multiagency funding packages have not kept pace with the interdisciplinary nature of the science.
Harmful algal blooms produce some of the most potent toxins known to man, potencies only exceeded by the more familiar protein toxins, like botulism toxins. HAB organisms are often toxic throughout their life cycle. There are of course exceptions like Pfeisteria that exhibit toxic phases. Because of their high intrinsic toxicity, exceedingly small amounts are required to induce lethality. Even smaller quantities may be accumulated and cause sub-lethal metabolic and/or neurotoxic abnormalities. In the area of sub-acute toxicological effects, we need more research to completely define the consequences of exposure, to understand the toxic mechanisms at the molecular level, to design antidotes or therapies, and ultimately to develop preventative strategies for man and animal alike. This is an interdisciplinary area that should be addressed by NIH, NSF and DOC.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We need more research directed at HAB initiation, progression, and termination. Concurrently, it is essential we develop testing methods and other tools that can accurately measure the numbers of HAB organisms at the beginning of a bloom. We currently know so little about triggering or sustaining factors that this is an area of active interest in all regions of the U.S. As many as 20 different marine microorganisms produce HABs, and each has individual ecological requirements. Factors beneficial to one species may be detrimental or inconsequential to yet another species. Much of this work is done at the State levels, traditionally related to seafood safety issues. There is a need here for Federal/State partnerships for research and information sharing. There is a decided need for specialized programs for development of test kits, perhaps by partnership with the biotechnology industry.
We need to develop testing protocols that can measure toxin movement through food chains, and within the organs and tissues of exposed animals. Without this information, it is impossible to precisely measure the total ecological consequences of HAB events. In addition, with the implementation of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) program for seafood in December of 1997, there is a desperate need for bringing all tests into use and certification.
We already know a great deal about how much and what types of toxin in seafood produce illness in man. We surmise, therefore, that any animal that consumes the same seafood is also subject to attack by the neurotoxins. Tests, therapeutics, and diagnostics developed by DOD and DHHS for humans have great potential for marine animals as well. One classic example of this cross-fertilization is the work done in Florida on the 1996 manatee epizootic. Diagnostic and analytical methods for brevetoxin detection in human biological fluids, developed using NIEHS funds awarded to the University of Miami Center, were used to precisely measure the amounts of brevetoxin present in tissue samples. This work was done in conjunction with marine mammal pathologists from the State of Florida. As a result of the study, a new analytical immunocytochemical test was developed; a test that may prove of value in precisely quantifying human illness or for seafood testing programs.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Informatics is extremely important in all of these research areas, and a detailed set of databases should be established, beginning with a survey of the databases already available. This can be done electronically, much in the same way as the current human genome project. This area is important for funding. Federal programs that address informatics should certainly play a great role in this endeavor.
Finally, stable funding for the science, in academic laboratories and at the State and Federal level, is necessary so that we can produce rapid response teams to address pressing HAB problems. It often seems that funding runs about 9 months behind toxic events, and universities are increasingly reluctant to provide the fiscal support to carry out rapid response projects.
I again would like to thank the Subcommittee for the invitation to address these issues. I hope my testimony has provided information that will assist you in your deliberations.
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