Park Service may drain Capitol Reflecting Pool

Dear Friends:

We hope other solutions can be found to the problem of ducks dying in the Capitol Reflecting Pool.  Perhaps our readership includes people who could advise the National Park Service about better alternatives.  The regional office’s phone number is 202-619-7222; NPS Director Mary Bomar’s office is 202-208-4621.


Park Service may drain Capitol Reflecting Pool

Michael Neibauer, The Examiner
July 29, 2008

WASHINGTON — The National Park Service is weighing whether to drain the Capitol Reflecting Pool during the summer months to protect fowl from diseases that fester in warm water, an agency spokesman said Monday.

The discussions follow an outbreak of avian botulism that has killed more than 40 ducks at the reflecting pool in the last two weeks. More than a dozen were found floating in the water on July 12, and another 24 on Saturday — 13 juveniles, nine ducklings and two adults.

“The least expensive route for the taxpayer would be to simply drain those pools during the summer months and fill them throughout the rest of the year,” said Bill Line, park service spokesman. “It’s an idea, nothing more than that. No decision has been made whatsoever.”

Draining the pool would be “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” said W. Kent Cooper, whose architectural firm designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The reflecting pool is there for a “very strong visual reason,” he said.

“I think it would be tragic,” Cooper said. “What would you do? Paint it blue?”

Avian botulism is a naturally occurring byproduct of hot weather and is no threat to humans, Line said. Even if the bacteria is present in the soil and the water, he said, it still requires sustained 68 degree water for an “extended period of time” to cultivate.

Draining the pool, Line said, would be “quicker and cheaper” than installing a system to circulate and recycle the water.

“If it were to be adopted during the summer months,” Line said of draining, “you’d take away one of the ingredients in the recipe and chances would be much greater that you wouldn’t have dead ducks, as we’ve seen.”

The Capitol Reflecting Pool sits east of Third Street at the base of the Capitol lawn. No ducks have been found dead in other famed National Mall bodies of water, such as the Reflecting Pool at the base of the Lincoln Memorial.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a spokeswoman said in an e-mail, was “shocked to learn” of the ducks’ deaths, and called on the NPS to take action “throughout the city wherever the Park Service has jurisdiction where waterfowl might be affected.”

Public reaction to the idea “would be part of our decision-making process,” Line said.