Story’s treatment on algae blooms too superficial | Letters | July 1
July 1, 2011 · Updated 12:01 PM
I was distressed by your superficial treatment of the “algae” blooms that look like floating red scum around the shorelines.
You state that these blooms are not pollution, but are noctiluca, which is “harmless to humans and marine life.” Noctiluca is the organism which creates “red tide.”
Perhaps this species of noctiluca is not N. scintillans, or “red tide,” but you do not clarify that.
The Department of Ecology website you refer to states “some types of blooms can produce toxins that can make people sick. Exposure can come from inhaling or swallowing water with toxins or from eating contaminated shellfish (that fed on the toxic phytoplankton).”
The website also indicates that they are concerned with how human activities and natural factors affect nutrient levels and water quality.
It seems to me that even if noctiluca is not itself a pollutant, the excessive amounts of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, from agriculture, suburban yard fertilizers, and malfunctioning sewage treatment systems, are indeed pollutants released by people.
These pollutants are not directly visible to our limited human eyes, but their effect on nature is obvious in this case.
Yes, noctiluca occurs naturally, but your headline “Algae blooms not harmful to others” is misleading.
You have missed a “teachable moment” in not questioning further the origins of the nutrients that are feeding the bloom, and in not fully disclosing the possible harmful nature of such blooms.