It’s not just birds that are dying: Arkansas officials are investigating the death of 100,000 fish in a lake in a town near Little Rock and suspect disease is to blame. CNN quotes Game & Fish Commissioner Keith Stephens as saying, "The fish kill only affected one species of fish. If it was from a pollutant, it would have affected all of the fish, not just drum fish."
This could have been due to a Dead Zone. Dead Zones in oceans are places where fish cannot live and are usually caused by agricultural runoff from nearby farms, which dump nitrogen from fertilizers into the sea. This causes large algae blooms, which filter out sunlight and kill off fish by starving them of oxygen. Fish can also be killed by oil leaks (and PEOPLE are being affected by this too), and people living along the Gulf Coast, the site of last summer’s BP oil spill, are coming down with mysterious health problems. (NOTE: Subscribers can listen to this report).
BP admits it used at least 1.9 million gallons of widely banned toxic dispersants to clean up the mess, which create an even more toxic substance when mixed with crude oil. And dispersed, weathered oil continues to flow ashore daily. The military is being cautious–they have rerouted training flights over the Gulf region in order to avoid oil spill locations. These dispersants enter people’s bodies through inhalation, ingestion of seafood, skin pores and eye contact. Symptoms include headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system damage, skin sensitization, hypertension, genetic mutations, cardiac arrhythmia, and cardiovascular damage.
If you want to grow a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, you first need to plant a seed in the rich farmland of the upper Mississippi River basin. A new study found that tile drainage systems in upper Mississippi farmlands–from southwest Minnesota to Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio–are the biggest contributors of nitrogen runoff into the Gulf. That runoff has been identified as a major contributor to "seasonal hypoxia" or dead zones in which nitrogen fertilized algae blooms, depletes oxygen and suffocates other life forms over thousands of square miles each summer. The Mississippi River basin covers 40% of the continental United States and is the largest producer of corn and soybeans in the world. Horticulturist Laurie Drinkwater says, "We know that we are losing nitrogen in the period between cash crops when nothing is growing in the field. If we plant winter cover crops and diversify crop rotations, nitrogen losses could be reduced quite a lot."