Will we be Fishless soon?: Part II

I often see livestock standing happily in rivers and streams. They are innocent, the farmers are not. We learned centuries ago that livestock, particulary dead livestock, in water courses leads to contamination of all water which was once running pure in rivers, streams and freshwater lakes..A sign is dead fish or no fish in water courses.

The excreta (faeces and urine) of mammals and birds are widespread across planet Earth and frequently contaminate water that is used for bathing and recreation, that is treated and distributed for human consumption, and that is used to irrigate crops. The risk that such contamination represents to human health is inadequately understood. It is widely assumed that faeces of animals represents a lesser risk to human health than human faeces because of the ‘species barrier’ and especially the species-specificity of most viruses………Rivers and streams deliver faecal wastes (and the zoonotic pathogens they may contain) to surface water bodies used for recreation, commercial shellfish harvesting and as sources of drinking-water. The transport of faecal material and the fate of zoonotic pathogens in a catchment is not understood with a great degree of certainty.” ¹

While many bacteria occur naturally in the environment and are an important component of many ecosystem processes, some are of concern because they may cause diseases. These bacteria (E.coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, etc.), as well as viruses (enteroviruses, adenoviruses, etc.) and some protozoans (Cryptosporidium, Giardia, etc.), are referred to as pathogens. Most are found in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and other warm-blooded animals and are shed in the faeces. One type of bacteria found in the intestines and faeces is Escherichia coli. Most people refer to it as E. coli. It is an important type of faecal coliform bacteria that can help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria within the intestines. ……..as E. coli concentrations increase in surface waters, it is likely that some type of faecal contamination has occurred. When the concentrations exceed water quality standards, people are at a greater risk of coming in contact with pathogens. The most common illness associated with exposure (swimming, ingestion) to faecal contaminated water is gastroenteritis, which can result in nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, headache, and diarrhea. Swimming in impacted waters can also lead to eye, ear, nose, skin, and throat infections and respiratory illnesses. In rarer cases, contaminated waters can lead to more serious conditions such as hepatitis, salmonellosis, or dysentery.” ²

Farmers know:

To –

Keep livestock out of watercourses to reduce bacterial contamination.

Do not intensively graze adjacent to rivers and streams, particularly in the winter or during wet conditions.

Do not feed livestock near watercourses and move feeding sites regularly to reduce poaching.

Do not locate manure heaps where there is a risk of run-off polluting water.

Streams may be on a smaller scale than rivers but the principles are the same and there may be greater opportunities for livestock to access, and contaminate, the water.

Land managers (farmers) know this. We all see water runs off land and flows eventually to the sea. On its way it carries any pollution and living things downstream will ingest the toxins.

Contents of septic tanks are often sprayed on to ploughed fields as fertilisers. I have felt gassed by the odour when this is done on fields near where I have lived. Sewage is meant to be collected by special vehicles which take it to a treatment plant; however, this is expensive and unlikely to be paid for by many farmers, but it should be mandatory and funding applied to support them to do this if they are subsistence farmers.

Where people live, cheek by jowl, due to poverty forcing them into shanty town existences, there is no sanitation and sewage flows along gutters, mixes with mud after heavy rain, flows into streams and rivers and contaminates whole areas. We often see images of flooded homes these days as rains fall more heavily and unexpectedly due to climate change. Anyone caught in flood waters knows how disgusting that water is if it enters homes and lies on farmland.

An immediate clear up after severe flooding is vital to prevent disease. A thorough clean up, restoring safe and hygienic surroundings for all living things. Flood prevention measures must be funded and environmental studies carried out to prevent being overwhelmed in future.

South Africa

Nature cannot rectify the balance if we have poisoned the water. Diseases become rampant. There is a high mortality rate due to intestinal illness. Children rarely reach 5 years old. We allow shanty towns to grow on the edge of impressive cities, where people are discarded just as the waste piles up around them, contrasting with the affluent in the cities with shiny, sanitised, lifestyles..

Skid Row, Los Angeles, USA

Back in 2017 there was an item in an Indian newspaper detailing the lack of care and diligence by those who lived in a gated community as to their responsibilty for the health of a main river and its stocks of fish nearby.

This is not an exceptional narrative. It is all too common.

Within the European Union laws have been made which all states are expected to implement. But, for many reasons, not all do.

The legal requirements for treating wastewater were set out in May 1991 in The Council Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban wastewater treatment . All member states within the European Union are obliged to follow the directive for treating wastewater, and when countries fail to comply, they can receive court action and or fines all of which we have seen in recent years.

Within the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency attempts to regulate for treating wastewater, here is an extract:

The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 and its amendments govern water pollution in the United States and are central to EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment.

Section 405(d) of the CWA requires EPA to:

  • Establish numeric limits and management practices that protect public health and the environment from the reasonably anticipated adverse effects of chemical and microbial pollutants during the use or disposal of sewage sludge.
  • Review sewage sludge (biosolids) regulations every two years to identify any additional pollutants that may occur in biosolids, and then set regulations for those pollutants if sufficient scientific evidence shows they may harm human health or the environment.

An article in Slate.com headlined ,

Trump Removes Pollution Protections for America’s Rivers and Streams


Governments will go 10 steps forward and 20 steps back. Deregulation is pushing Clean Water Acts into oblivion. We can only expect more disease as a consequence, but also the death of more ecosystems in what were once pristine rivers and lakes.

Despite horrifying visual evidence, as at Biscayne Bay, Miami in 2020 we do not seem to be be making progress to focus on cleaning up our environment any time soon.

Sewage and other waste kill marine life at Biscayne Bay, Miami, 2020

We have been setting up waste water treatment plants for centuries. We know what to do. Yet we are neglecting many areas of this Planet which can only result in killing ourselves with diseases which will overwhelm us.

If we leave toxins to build up anywhere on this beautiful Planet we will cause many more animal extinctions, including our own.

We MUST CLEAN UP OUR MESS NOW, wherever we have caused it. We have the money, don’t say we don’t. Simply re-direct funds from flag ship nonsense 7 star high life living to essential areas which are already well documented and understood.

About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers. In 1998 I co-wrote Millennium Countdown (US)/ A Business Guide to the Year 2000 (UK) see https://www.abebooks.co.uk/products/isbn/9780749427917
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