Must Consider The Source

Must Consider The Source

To the Editor:

As a devoted fan of the Mount Vernon Gazette, I was disappointed at the May 17 editorial, “Most Endangered?”. That piece merely parroted unsubstantiated claims by American Rivers, Inc., that the Potomac River has somehow shot to the top of the list of the nation’s most endangered rivers, and urged readers to join that group’s fight to keep Congress from reining in the EPA.

But the editorial — and the American Rivers report — never mention that EPA is a major source of funding for American Rivers, a tax-exempt “advocacy” group that has no business lobbying on behalf of a government agency that has come under fire for some embarrassing instances of overreach.

Just since April 2011, American Rivers has received more than $3 million in grants from the EPA for its Potomac programs. Is naming the Potomac the “most endangered” and simultaneously launching a media blitz to protect that agency just a clumsy form of payback — and an effort to protect its own honeypot?

Worse, the editorial even hints that “dog waste” (which is not mentioned at all in the American Rivers report), is a bigger source of bacterial pollution than agricultural runoff .

Who or what was the source of this unsubstantiated claim? In fact, dog waste is nowhere near the threat that environmental zealots in this area would have us believe. According to an analysis by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission of “probable” sources of e-coli contamination, 62 percent can be attributed to waterfowl, deer and raccoons alone, with another 12 percent attributed to “other” species). Dog waste accounts for only 9 percent — about half of the amount attributed to human (17 percent). (Odd that we have seen little media attention to concerns about the impact of wildlife proliferation in this area.)

The only “scientific” justification given for the “most endangered” ranking is a widely-reported “D” given by another advocacy group — which also receives EPA funding. But a closer reading of the source reports shows not only that the Potomac was not the focus of those studies (which addressed the entire Chesapeake Bay), but that the ranking changes were attributed for the most part to fluctuating weather conditions in those two years. Further examination indicates that “ C+” is the highest ranking that group seems to have given any waters, and that was mostly for areas with lower concentrations of population.

Reality is that rivers running through heavily populated areas will always be affected by runoff; the greater the population concentration, the greater the impact. Improvements have been made, and the efforts should continue, but more balance is needed in journalistic coverage.

Mary Tracy