Proposed Alternatives to Draining the Capitol Reflecting Pool

Dear Friends,

We’ve received a number of suggestions from our readers in response to our July 29th UPDATE about the problem of ducks dying at the Capitol Reflecting Pool due to avian botulism.  We will forward them to the National Park Service.  Among ideas for exploring alternatives to the NPS suggestion to drain the Pool (and lose its “Reflecting” quality) are the following:

From Doug Blonsky, President of Central Park Conservancy in New York City:

I had my soil and water specialist do some research.  I am sure you are getting a lot of suggestions.  So take this as just another one:  High-Output UV Sterilizers.  There are large ones that processes up to 2400 gallons a minute.  They should call Aquatic Ecosystems to set this up for them for under $20,000.  These are the guys who spec’d out the aeration system at Turtle Pond [in Central Park].

From Clay Cunningham, biologist and author of Yellowstone to Denali:

I was the first biologist at Gateway [National Recreation Area] in the mid 1970’s faced with the identical problem of dying shorebirds due to avian botulism. Some details of the actions I took that eliminated the deaths due to botulism are recounted in my book Yellowstone to Denali.   I suspect the problem exists due to anerobic conditions generated by algae blooms lowering the oxygen.  It is not the “bloom” of algae that lowers the oxygen. The algae blooms due to bird feces (nitrogen fertilizer) and high water temperatures.  During the decaying process is when the algae reduces the oxygen.  At the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Gateway NRA I found the botulism flourished first in insects along the shoreline.  Avian botulism  requires anerobic conditions, a high pH and high water temperatures for the algae bloom.  It can be controlled by lowering the pH, removal of algae, and oxygenation of the water through aeration. This is not a difficult problem to overcome. It just takes some physical labor and a few corrections to increase the oxygen.  See my website at:

Local Coalition members say the National Zoo is also an excellent source of information and supplier recommendations for solving biotic contamination problems.

Thanks to all for the ideas.




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