Why are bugs sometimes a good thing when it comes to our rivers, streams, and health?

June 12, 2013

lewistown bridges 2013 sojourn Just returning from the annual Juniata Clean Water Partnership river sojourn. This picture  was taken in Lewistown, Pennsylvania after lunch yesterday as we started to get back on the water to continue our journey. We are near Memorial Bridge with a railroad bridge beyond that. As always, the sojourn was recreational and educational. For example, in listening to the Partnership’s director talk after one of the educational sessions, I realized once more how important visual communication can be. We had been learning about the importance of having insects as a source of food for fish in the water and the sign of a water’s health being in danger when there are no insects and then no fish. Mike told me, “It is much easier to get folks enthused about water quality when you hold up a mason jar of river water that is thick and orange. It is much harder to make your case when the water appears to be relatively ‘clean’.”

Among the chemicals in river water that cannot be seen are arsenic, mercury, and benzene. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to cancer, developmental disorders and reproductive disorders. Arsenic is tasteless and odorless, and you can’t see it. Arsenic comes from natural rock formations into the river water but also comes from mining, smelting, and other human activities.  Mercury is found in many electronic devices and is part of many industrial activities. Mercury is often released into the air and falls to the rivers in rain. For a comprehensive but nontechnical summary about benzene, this paper from the CDC is useful:   http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp3-c1.pdf


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