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