Why do officials always use denial as their first response?

18 November 2011

Is this muck evidence of clean water in Prospect Park’s lake? Watchdogs think not. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

A while back Droplets reported on the algal bloom in Prospect Park Lake (Brooklyn, New  York).  The first response was, yes, denial!  The Brooklyn Paper reports that:

The Parks Department spent much of the past three days denying reports that deadly green bacteria have overwhelmed the Prospect Park lake — but then revealed this week that biologists are testing the scum to determine the full extent of the threat.

Park advocates say the thick, rapidly multiplying slime has scared off wildlife, put pooches at risk — and possibly poisoned an animal found dead in the lake on Sunday.

Since May, the pea soup-colored substance has grown visibly thicker as park watchdogs report fewer egrets, herons and other fish-eating birds at the lake. It could be an indication that the feathered creatures aren’t comfortable with multiplying level of the slime.

The next response is usually to try and discredit the critics, so statements like the following emerge:

Park Department spokeswoman Vickie Karp said that activists were “making a tempest out of a teapot,” though later admitted that agency biologists will test the bacteria to determine if it’s harmful. For now, though, she said there’s no reason for alarm.

“It’s just scum in a pond,” she said. “It’s natural.”

Why not just be honest and admit to the facts and move forward, rather than trying to fudge around it.  The final response is usually to find someone to blame…

Although winter is rapidly approaching, there are still some algal warnings in effect in the US.  One such is at Waurika Lake in Jefferson County:

Although wetter, cooler weather could eventually have some impact, Waurika Lake remains closed for swimming and recreational sports because of blue-green algae levels.

In August an advisory was issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Tulsa district lakes, which banned swimming and other activities involving people submersing themselves in Waurika Lake.

As of the past weekend, the warning was still in effect. According to the Corps of Engineers, Chisholm Trail swim beach and Kiowa swim beach are both closed. The water can have adverse effects on a person’s health if swallowed.

Thurmond Lake in Augusta is suffering from a massive invasive plant invasion, in this case hydrilla.

A tenacious aquatic weed first found in Thurmond Lake in 1995 has continued to expand and now infests about 60 percent of the reservoir’s 1,200-mile shoreline, according to a new study by the Army Corps of Engineers.

In certain environments, including Thurmond Lake, hydrilla harbors an unusual algae that is believed to produce a neurotoxin ingested by small birds known as coots that are a favorite food of bald eagles.

The condition, known as avian vacuolar myelinopathy, or AVM, creates brain lesions that have killed at least 60 eagles at Thurmond Lake and many more elsewhere.

Controlling hydrilla could be one step to reducing AVM outbreaks, but any solution could be controversial, and also expensive.

In Canterbury New Zealand, current reports indicate that there are no major problems and all the usual swimming locations are open.

A cursory glance revealed that the water quality all of the main sites assessed in Timaru, Waitaki and Coastal South Canterbury ranged from “fair” to “excellent”, with the only exceptions being Waihi River (poor), Lake Opuha at Ewarts Corner (poor), Waihao River at Black Hole (very poor), Lake Benmore at Glenburn Motor Camp (poor) and Lake Aviemore at Loch Laird (poor).

ECan surface water quality analyst Graeme Clarke said the regional council would be keeping a particularly close eye on the possible spread of mats of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) species such as Phormidium.

Lastly, there is a toxic red tide affecting south-east Alaska.

Alaska health officials investigated eight confirmed and 13 probable paralytic shellfish poisoning cases in southeastern Alaska in June, officials say.

A report published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released Thursday, said paralytic shellfish poisoning is a potentially fatal condition resulting from consumption of saxitoxin. Ingestion of saxitoxin — one of the most potent natural toxins known — usually occurs after eating shellfish contaminated by toxic algal blooms, the report said.

2 Responses to Why do officials always use denial as their first response?

  1. But, you know that the “lake” in Prospect Park is not even a lake. It is kept full with NYC tap water and is entirely man made.

    • Bill Harding says:

      A man-made lake is a form of lake, however small. All of the ‘lakes’ in South Africa, for example, are man-made – we have natural lakes apart from one or two very small exceptions. The issue with the Prospect Lake case is that it appears to have become polluted with nutrients, resulting in unsightly algal blooms.

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