Local News

Pfiesteria Conference Held in Maryland

Posted September 19, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— For at least eight years, a micro-organism called pfiesteria has preyed on the creatures in North Carolina's rivers, and on those who make living catching them. But when Maryland's rivers started to cough up fish stricken with symptoms of pfiesteria, that state's governor began to push for a major battle against the micro-organism.

Friday, a special meeting got underway in Annapolis. In attendance are representatives with interests in the topic. The group is hoping to come up with a unified approach to study and deal with pfiesteria.

NC Governor Jim Hunt was unable to attend the conference due to conflicting plans in Europe. He did, however, send two of his cabinet members to represent NC's interests in the meeting with governors from four other eastern states and representatives from Pennsylvania.

The representatives of six states signed an agreement to work together. They told reporters they would combine their research efforts toward a comprehensive goal of beating pfiesteria.

Governor Parris Glendening of Maryland said public health is at the top of the group's list of priorities.

This pfiesteria summit is the first of its kind and comes just one month after Glendening closed part of the Pocomoke River. Researchers say that waterway has contributed to the illness of seven people.

North Carolina State University JoAnn Burkholder is considered an authority on the micro-organism. She attended the conference and had high praise for Maryland's governor.

While North Carolina has been dealing with this problem for years, politicians at the summit say they don't want to point fingers at any state. It does appear to some, however, that Maryland has had to force NC into dealing with the problem.

New leaders appointed to handle the problem in NC, such as Dr. David Bruton, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, say that's not true.

Dr. Bruton is one of a group of new leaders in NC that many hope will take a new and more effective approach to the problems caused by pfiesteria. Those at the conference agree that the problem is at its worst in NC.

Photographer:Joe Frieda