Outdoors column: Water questions prompt disturbing possibilities

2013-03-07T06:00:00Z Outdoors column: Water questions prompt disturbing possibilitiesBy BILL BARKER, For the Corvallis Gazette-Times Albany Democrat Herald

I’ve finally figured it out. Opinions about the causes of rapid global warming depend basically on two factors.

One, accepting the massive amounts of data supplied by those backing human induced increases as correct. And two, belief in some kind of “environmentalist conspiracy” and that “cherry-picking” data which seems to show totally natural cycles as causes are right.

I’m among the first group, who accept the need for changing the footprint we are leaving in Earth’s biosphere.

Such changes are critical, but there’s more. New evidence about something many of us have been viewing as a potential problem: The effects of flushing prescription drugs (including antibiotics) into our sewers, then to sewage treatment plants which lack the technology to properly remove, or nullify, such compounds.

Scientists have found traces of many types of prescription drugs in both rivers and oceans. Some of the “behavior-altering” types have been shown to also alter the survival traits of many kinds of aquatic life; not in a beneficial manner.

Kind of makes me wonder if they not only change behavioral traits for the worse, but are also affecting the physical well-being of land-dwelling species, some of which have been mysteriously decreasing in population. Perhaps, if all evidence was in, those decreases wouldn’t be so mysterious.

How many other bodies of water, such as popular lakes, have been contaminated with pharmaceutical products? Think about it. Most campgrounds have outhouses, or actual toilets, which depend on natural percolation through soil to provide “sewage treatment.”

We’ve already seen toxic algae explosions – from excessive nitrogen traced to sewage — which have closed lakes during certain periods. Seems likely various pharmaceuticals have entered those waters, thus into fish many catch for the dinner table, back into the food-chain again, and with what result? We don’t know yet.

In addition, cities often use water from rivers (or reservoirs fed by rivers) — after treatment — to provide a supply for both drinking and irrigation. But treatment plants don’t remove drugs and antibiotics from those supplies, so they are cycled right back into the diets of all creatures dependent on them.

Do you ever question why the prevalence of both psychological and physical ailments seems to be on the increase? Maybe there’s a connection with the water we all must drink.

In studies, some fish (when subjected to “mood-altering” drugs) have become more aggressive. Some have lost the fear of individual danger, which kept them members of larger schools, a protective mechanism reducing their chance of being the one selected as food by predators.

Perhaps it is stretching things a bit, but some of the violent actions we have seen in our society – often perpetrated by individuals who have, for some mysterious reason, removed themselves from previously close social interactions with others – sound awfully similar.

As outdoors people who hunt or fish, we have had chances to personally observe how poor environmental actions can affect the abundance of fish and wildlife; how seemingly small amounts of various pollutants can alter the predator-prey-food relationships which perpetuate the cycle supporting our chain of life.

Local, state and national groups of sportsmen and sportswomen have historically been the first to initiate and fund legislation supporting restoration of habitat and water quality, which enhance survival chances for all species of wildlife.

This new evidence should raise our awareness that seemingly innocuous disposal of pharmaceutical products can affect the survival traits of species we hunt, fish, eat and – possibly — those of humans.

Men and women with a love for the outdoors should once again be at the forefront in initiating new standards of water quality benefitting all of nature.

Bill Barker writes about the outdoors. He can be reached at billbarker@comcast.net

Copyright 2015 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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