Senators seek federal study of Pfiesteria


WASHINGTON -- Maryland's two senators have joined with North Carolina Sen. Lauch Faircloth to introduce legislation that would authorize $15 million for a study by the Army Corps of Engineers of a microbe blamed in major fish kills in both states.

The bill, introduced last week by Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, both Democrats, and Faircloth, one of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate, directs the Corps of Engineers to develop a plan to address declining water quality.

"I got the federal government involved because this isn't just a Maryland problem -- it's a regional and national problem," Mikulski said. "It deserves a coordinated, bipartisan effort based on sound science to try and find the answers."

Researchers believe that water pollution from farm runoff has triggered toxic algae blooms such as Pfiesteria piscicida that are closely linked to recent fish kills in mid-Atlantic states such as Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, as well as in Florida. Pfiesteria has also been blamed for causing ailments in people who work and live along affected streams and rivers.

The funds for the Corps of Engineers study would be in addition to $13.5 million approved last fall for research on the toxic microorganism in the wake of a wave of fish kills in Maryland.

"This is not a silver bullet. It is part of the puzzle," said Sean Callinicos, Faircloth's general counsel. "Last year, the focus was vTC on getting immediate money for research. While that's still a very necessary priority, I think folks are still looking at where we are going from here instead of an emergency, ad-hoc situation."

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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