Local News

Maryland Governor: Pfiesteria Can Hurt People

Posted September 1, 1997

— For the first time, a state leader said the organism responsible for dozens of fish kills in our state can hurt swimmers and boaters.

That leader is the governor of Maryland, and his speech attracted plenty of attention in North Carolina.

The battle may soon move to a North Carolina courtroom. River Keeper Rick Dove said two law firms are considering class action lawsuits against the state, saying that leaders glossed over the pfiesteria problem.

Cruising the Neuse River on Labor Day, you might never guess that a hidden danger could be lurking beneath the water. Pfiesteria lives in the Neuse, and now a team of doctors suspects 13 Maryland residents can blame the organism for memory loss, confusion and burning skin.

"No one cares," said David Jones, fisherman.

Jones said it's about time someone acknowledged the risk of the organism. The fisherman said he believes pfiesteria has permanently damaged his brain.

"He's like a shell, like a person that used to be there and everyday, everyday you can see him dwindling into what he is right now."

North Carolina inspectors have maintained there is no conclusive evidence that the organism hurts people swimmers, boaters or anyone else on the water.

Those who think it does believe Maryland's stand could be a wake up call to North Carolina. Maryland and Virginia have closed part of the lower Pocomoke until further notice.

"By putting out proper posting and proper information, and doing the kind of aggressive research that needs to be done, they're going to protect their citizens. I'm grateful because what they're doing is ultimately going to help us here in North Carolina."

Dove has made it his full-time job to get out the word about pfiesteria. Though the Neuse doesn't run through Maryland or Virginia, he's convinced action there could help all of us figure out how serious the problem really is.

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