"I Don't Drink Water. Fish Poop In It."

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…that's one variant of a comment attributed to comedian W.C. Fields. And it turns out not only fish poop in streams. According to the Washington Post, the EPA has found more than 50% of the coliform bacteria found in several rivers and streams around Washington, DC come from wild animal poop. Racoons, muskrats, deer, geese and so forth do not clean up after themselves. Who knew?

The Post reports:

In the Washington area, violations of the bacteria standards have put more than two dozen streams, including the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, on the federal "impaired waters" list. That means they do not meet the ideal conditions for swimming and need cleaning up.

So who—or what—is responsible for the contamination? The answer has become much clearer in the past five or so years, because of high-tech tests sponsored by states that pinpoint from which animal a particular sample of bacteria came.

In this area, some of what these surveys have found is not surprising. One recent study by a Virginia Tech team found that humans are responsible for 24 percent of the bacteria in the Anacostia and 16 percent of the Potomac's, whether the source is a broken septic tank or the District's large sewage overflows during heavy rains. Livestock were also a major problem around the area—responsible for 10 percent of the Potomac's bacteria, for instance—because their manure washes out of pastures and the farm fields where it is spread as fertilizer.

Then there are nature's own polluters.

In the Potomac and the Anacostia, for instance, more than half of the bacteria in the streams came from wild creatures. EPA documents show that similar problems were found in Maryland, where wildlife were more of a problem than humans and livestock combined in the Magothy River, and in Northern Virginia tributaries such as Accotink Creek, where geese were responsible for 24 percent of bacteria, as opposed to 20 percent attributable to people.

W.C. Fields was right–keep pouring the Lagavulin.

Whole story here.

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  1. Fecal pollution caused by generalist, edge-species animals (like deer, bear, pigeons and non-migratory populations of geese – animals who thrive off of the environments we create) in areas disrupted by human activity is something we’ve know about for a long time. Compare walking on a golf course or near the pond in an office park to walking through the woods.

    This type of fecal pollution is unheard of in undeveloped area. This is just another result of human activity disrupting natural patterns, to our own detriment.

  2. Sounds plausible to me. Geese are savage poop machines. They were a lot cooler when you just saw them flying south in the fall.

  3. joe: Perhaps so, but the article does note:

    “If you were here when Captain John Smith rode up the Anacostia River [in 1608], and you tested the water, it would probably have a good bit of coliform in it” because of wildlife, said Robert Boone, president of an environmental group called the Anacostia Watershed Society.

  4. joe – that’s an amazing comment. So incredibly ignorant and yet spoken with such conviction! A real mark of insanity – congrats!

    How about heading to any local camping store, say EMS and REI and asking them about whether or not its a good idea to drink “pure” stream water in the wilderness. Tell them you’re going to the wilds of Alaska… ya know what they’ll sell you – a water filter! and do you know why? It’s called “beaver fever”, not “human fever”.

  5. laphroaig my man, laphroaig…

  6. I’m about 50% with Joe on this one — geese in particular are bad news, and the goose problem is almost entirely human-created. More or less uniquely, migration is a learned behaviour in Canada geese; as suburban development creates environments in which geese can survive overwinter without migrating, more and more geese will overwinter, and from that point none of their descendents will ever migrate. But of course they’re still protected from hunting and trapping by the Migratory Birds Act, which prevents certain solutions to that problem.

    Humans have worked damn hard, via both private distributed and centralized government means, to create a massive goose-shit problem. It’s a tremendous example of how efficient and effective a good public-private synergy can be — a perfect storm of goose-shit.

  7. This type of fecal pollution is unheard of in undeveloped area.

    So, joe, you’re saying that a bear doesn’t, in fact, crap in the woods?

  8. GG: Same thing goes for White Tail Deer. Certain solutions have fallen out of fashion. It’s not just those damned suburbs.

    From Environmental Defense:

    White-tailed Deer: As improbable as it seems today, the white-tailed deer was in danger of disappearing from large parts of the US at the beginning of the 20th century. Unregulated hunting, combined with extensive deforestation, had eliminated deer from most of their historic range. Fewer than half a million remained in the nation. The imposition of game laws, the regeneration of the eastern forests, and (unfortunately) the extirpation of major deer predators such as wolves and mountain lions, allowed this graceful animal to stage one of the century’s biggest comebacks. Today, some 17 to 25 million whitetails prowl the forests, fields, and suburbs of America. In many areas, white-tailed deer have become so abundant that they are now pests, destroying farm crops, consuming backyard vegetable gardens, decimating native wildflowers, and impeding the regeneration of forests by consuming young hemlocks and yews.

  9. GG: Same thing goes for White Tail Deer. Certain solutions have fallen out of fashion. It’s not just those damned suburbs.

    From Environmental Defense:

    White-tailed Deer: As improbable as it seems today, the white-tailed deer was in danger of disappearing from large parts of the US at the beginning of the 20th century. Unregulated hunting, combined with extensive deforestation, had eliminated deer from most of their historic range. Fewer than half a million remained in the nation. The imposition of game laws, the regeneration of the eastern forests, and (unfortunately) the extirpation of major deer predators such as wolves and mountain lions, allowed this graceful animal to stage one of the century’s biggest comebacks. Today, some 17 to 25 million whitetails prowl the forests, fields, and suburbs of America. In many areas, white-tailed deer have become so abundant that they are now pests, destroying farm crops, consuming backyard vegetable gardens, decimating native wildflowers, and impeding the regeneration of forests by consuming young hemlocks and yews.

  10. Jose, Ron,

    My point was that the ecological changes we’ve caused have led to an increase in the pollution of waterbodies from animal feces, not that there are none in an undisturbed area. Bears do shit in the woods, after all.

    In addition to the landscapes we’ve created increasing the size of certain animal populations, there’s also the fact that our artificial landscapes allow feces dropped on land to enter the hydrosphere faster and in greater quantity. Impervious surfaces, and even lawns, wash materials into waterways durin rainstorms at a much higher rate than natural landscapes, due to the lack of a tree canopy, underbrush, and leaf litter to retain/detain stormwater. What would have composted on the forest floor and stayed there, or at least degraded to the point that most of the pathogens are inert, gets washed into the stream as fresh poop.

    But what do I know? I obviously think shallow, meandering streams in undeveloped areas are full of Evian.

  11. Geese: Edible and tasty.
    Deer: See above.

    If they are a nuisance and tasty, I have a solution.
    A Final Solution, if you will…

  12. I have beaver fever, but I didn’t get it from drinking the water.

  13. “Poop”? Man, I hope W.C. Fields never said “poop.” Did it even mean that back then? Whatever, I much, much, much prefer the fish-fuck-in-water variant.

  14. ed,

    Market based solution: allow the retail sale of wild deer meat again.

    If every American replaced 20 pounds of factory farm beef with 20 pounds of wild vension in their diets each year, there would be less pollution, less cruelty, healtier ecosystems, and less antibiotic resistance.

  15. joe wants to allow the sale of wild deer meat for human consumption……

    I agree with joe.

    I cannot believe I just wrote that.

  16. My point was that the ecological changes we’ve caused have led to an increase in the pollution of waterbodies from animal feces, not that there are none in an undisturbed area. Bears do shit in the woods, after all.

    An excellent example of a petitio principii – aka begging the question. You assume animals did NOT poop in streams before humans in order to assert they do it BECAUSE of humans.


    In addition to the landscapes we’ve created increasing the size of certain animal populations, there’s also the fact that our artificial landscapes allow feces dropped on land to enter the hydrosphere faster and in greater quantity. Impervious surfaces, and even lawns, wash materials into waterways durin rainstorms at a much higher rate than natural landscapes, due to the lack of a tree canopy, underbrush, and leaf litter to retain/detain stormwater. What would have composted on the forest floor and stayed there, or at least degraded to the point that most of the pathogens are inert, gets washed into the stream as fresh poop.

    Ah, yeah, right. The long and almost endless prairies in the middle US thus were lawns kept by . . . indians?? Don’t be silly – lawns and even golf courses just barely scratch the total surface of America. Animals simply poop wherever they want as they have been doing for millenia.

    Have the other posters noticed how eco-crazies come with these ad hoc hypothesis that always seem to blame humans for things that happen naturally?


    But what do I know? I obviously think shallow, meandering streams in undeveloped areas are full of Evian.

    Drink it and let us know. I am stocked with antibiotics, if you need some later.

  17. “If every American replaced 20 pounds of factory farm beef with 20 pounds of wild vension in their diets each year, there would be less pollution, less cruelty, healtier ecosystems, and less antibiotic resistance.”

    I was say just this to my wife last night. Well, something like it anyway. I think there would be far fewer meat eaters if folks knew what it was like to kill and prepare an animal. If you have hunted long enough you know what it is like to have a bad kill. One where the animal was wounded and in pain. One where is took a long time to find and finish it off. One where you have to get up close and see the pain and panic. And likewise observing the operation of a traditional beef or pork producer isn’t pleasant.

    Oh, and has anyone proven a link between farmyard antibiotic use and antibiotic efficacy in humans? I thought this was just leftwing nutjob bunko.

  18. How did our caveman ancestors survive drinking out of streams if it’s so dangerous?

  19. Neu Mejican

    Laphroaig is a excellent Isley Scotch but Lagavulin is the finest whiskey on Earth. I had the joy of getting a bottle when I was in Scotland this summer and I can remember no better.

  20. Have the other posters noticed how eco-crazies come with these ad hoc hypothesis that always seem to blame humans for things that happen naturally?

    Yep.

  21. “You assume animals did NOT poop in streams before humans in order to assert they do it BECAUSE of humans.”

    No, and I don’t feel like repeating my point. You read “led to an increase” to mean “began something that was not present.” Your bad.

    “The long and almost endless prairies in the middle US thus were lawns kept by . . . indians??” Land that is naturally prarie has very different ecological characteristics than lawns that are chopped out of land that is naturally forest.

    pigwiggle, I didn’t say I wanted to chase the beasts through the woods, though I might, someday. I was talking about having wild venison chops $5.95/lb at Stop&Shop.

    Ratboy,

    They got sick all the time. As soon as they figured out how, they began to brew healthy, safe beer.

  22. How did our caveman ancestors survive drinking out of streams if it’s so dangerous?

    They didn’t.

  23. Market based solution: allow the retail sale of wild deer meat again.

    Not a bad idea, joe. But I doubt it would be allowed to happen to any large degree, due to, among other things, government food regulatory rules.

    A few years back Seattle parks were very overrun with Canada geese (a species, incidently, that is not ‘native’ to most of the areas). Aside from being so damned cute the things are a virtual poop factory. Real health dangers (e. coli, etc) were being caused, particularly along beach areas like Lake Washington. The government first toyed with ‘relocating’ the geese, but abandoned this when it was demonstrated that removed geese had an uncanny ability to find their ways back to the same free-lunch stomping grounds. So it was reluctantly decided that numbers of them would have to be killed.

    A Canada goose is about the size of a turkey, and these ones are generally very well fed. So naturally it seemed like a waste not to do something with the carcasses. It was proposed that they be given to area food banks. Sounded good. Until the environmental health agencies got involved and decreed that, to do so, each bird carcass would have to be individually tested for a slew of possible contagions before human consumption. If I recall, the pricetag estimated was something like $50 per bird. Otherwise the state would face the possibility of litigation if someone got sick.

    So the herds got culled. They kept the details low-key, but if I remember correctly they used mobile gas chambers (i.e., vans with sealed compartments that they pumped carbon monoxide into). And the carcasses just disappeared. Buried in landfills, most likely.

  24. I think there would be far fewer meat eaters if folks knew what it was like to kill and prepare an animal.

    True. There’d proabably be a lot fewer vegetable eaters too if people grew their own fruits and vegetables and had their crop destroyed by drought, insects, rats, etc. And since people usually eat a much wider variety of fruits and vegatable than what normally grows in their geographic area, they’d get tired of the same old same old real fast… and probably hunt animals just to relieve the boredom and have something else to taste.

    Division of labor. Love it!

  25. This type of fecal pollution is unheard of in undeveloped area. This is just another result of human activity disrupting natural patterns, to our own detriment.

    Not so sure, joe. All things ‘natural’ are often heavily contaminated with all kinds of bacteria. I think that yes, an argument could be made that surrounding development will push remaining wildlife density up and thus some bacterial infections might occur in suburban streams, plenty of wilderness/water dangers existed long before mass development.

    High altitude mountain streams are probably going to be pretty clear and fresh, but anything in a valley or lowland and I’d be suspicious that animal droppings would be affecting even relatively untouched streams.

  26. I think there would be far fewer meat eaters if folks knew what it was like to kill and prepare an animal.

    Doubt it. There used to be a time when everyone knew how (and often participated) to kill and prepare an animal… didn’t seem to turn many people to vegetarianism back then.

  27. If you all are going to hunt the deer that show up in our backyards, can I start force feeding grain to the geese that show up anywhere there is as much water as a puddle?
    I don’t want to make foie gras. I just want to see the dirty mean f—ers stomachs explode.

  28. “How did our caveman ancestors survive drinking out of streams if it’s so dangerous?”

    Generally, they didn’t.

    They barely hint at it in the article, but is there any indication as to what the EPA standards are and whether those standards have anything to do with safety, or whether they were a politically expedient number?

    Remember this isn’t drinking water we’re talking about (there’s few better modern miracles than water treatment), the issue is strictly swimming and, I’d guess, the edibility of fish from these bodies of water. Are the bacteria levels that exist a big deal or not?

  29. When I read a headline and an article like this on H&R I just can’t wait to open and read the response from Joe.

    Joe, thanks for being so dependable!

  30. Sheez, this reminds me of a conversation I had with a guy about how he refuses to swim in the ocean, since “it’s just a big toilet bowl.” Every carbon atom in your body has been eaten and shat out millions of times since the beginning of life on earth.

    We may be made of star stuff, but it was far more recently shit stuff. Deal with it.

  31. I’m not if you realize this, Schempf, but that isn’t a comment on the truthfulness of my statement.

    Paul,

    My phrase “this type of fecal pollution” was poorly phrased, and misleading. I explained what I meant at 12:18.

  32. As an afficianado of Wal*Mart Great Value brand sardines, I’ve often wondered about the contents of the guts of Fred or whomever I happen to be slurping/chomping at the time. (Cheap sardines are big-ass sardines with guts to match.)
    What about raw oysters? What about Felix’s Oyster Bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans? What about that little green pocket of ??? in every steenking oyster?
    I’m tempted to slurp on and let the Devil take the hindquarters… or some such.

    Before departing the subject, allow me to recommend smoked sprats from Riga, Latvia. They come in a round can that requires a can-opener (The company tried a flip-top can for a short while, but went back to old faithful.) I gettem here in Sinincincinnati for 99 cents a can, one of the best bargains on this planet.

  33. I’m sorry if my comment about geese came out the wrong way.
    What I meant to say is that geese are dirty, mean, angry goddamn animals and they deserve to die, preferably via a cruel method.
    I did not mean to diparage foie gras farmers. AVMA has found that the process is not cruel. Thank you for letting me clear my conscience.

  34. I hate geese.

  35. “True. There’d proabably be a lot fewer vegetable eaters too if people grew their own fruits and vegetables and had their crop destroyed by drought, insects, rats, etc.”

    My entire vegetable garden was destroyed by hail this year, but that didn’t put me off vegetables. It’s not about the division of labor but the gruesome process. My point being that if folks had some first hand experience with killing an animal they may not look at the nice sanitary cellophane wrapped cuts of meat in the same manner.

    “There used to be a time when everyone knew how (and often participated) to kill and prepare an animal… didn’t seem to turn many people to vegetarianism back then.”

    Necessity and convenience. There was a time when folks ate every last bit of an animal as well. The only organ meats in this house are in the dog food.

  36. Eryk B

    “Laphroaig is a excellent Isley Scotch but Lagavulin is the finest whiskey on Earth. I had the joy of getting a bottle when I was in Scotland this summer and I can remember no better.”

    Although I like the Lagavulin 16 year better than the Laphroaig 10 year, it holds not a candle to the 15 year Laphroaig.

  37. I’d be with joe regarding free market sales of venison, but out where my neighbors hunt there’s a problem with Chronic Wasting Disease. The state’s Dept. of Natural Resources is having a devil of a time recruiting enough hunters to kill the beasts that feed in the quarantine area. Folks would rather hunt for trophy bucks than kill does.

    They do have some sensible herd reduction methods, like “earn a buck’ licences, that require you to kill a doe first.

    Anything that gets healthy venison chops and steaks on my grill is fine with me.

    Kevin

  38. Water tanks are usually made of either plastic, fiberglass, concrete, stone, or steel. And, standing water can create sediment on floors of this material. Cleaning a water tank is necessary if inspections reveals sediment has developed on the floors and walls. Some states require the inspection of and cleaning of the reservoir once a year. The sediment in the reservoir can contain bacteria, protozoa, or viruses. This can cause contamination, or, a bad taste or smell. Plus, the accumulation of sediment can create larger problems.
    ????? ?????? ????
    Before cleaning a water tank it has to be drained. The waste is drained through the washout valve. After the unit is empty it is scrubbed with a simple soapy hot detergent solution. A stiff brush is usually strong enough to remove any residue. If the unit is large, the brush is attached to the end of a pole to reach distant areas. It is also possible to clean away residue with a pressure jet.

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