Will Removal of Septics Make a Difference?

by Dr. Donald Flora, PhD

The Kitsap Sun’s April 13 front page coverage of the Hood Canal fish kills and the “pivotal role” of septic systems, is misleading. Research has indeed supported the premise that bay-borne nitrogen, impelled to the Canal’s surface by winds, nourishes vast amounts of plankton that die, sink and decay, thus starving fish of oxygen. One might think we can interrupt the sequence by stoppering septic nitrogen discharges. But that seems unlikely.

A team of scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey has pointed out that the ocean provides Hood Canal’s Lynch Cove (the problem area ) with over 100 times as much nitrogen as do septic discharges. It follows that somehow halting all septic nitrogen output wouldn’t make even a wee dent in nitrogen inflows nor fish mortality.

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