I live on the shoreline of Burley Lagoon and I have been a witness to the events of the past two years where our lagoon life has been disrupted in the middle of summer by a pungent and toxic odor.
The description of it being a smell like rotten eggs (which it actually is), minimizes the significance of our exposures. The gases that produce that smell are dimethyl sulfide and sulfur dioxide—both of which can cause irritant effects in small doses, but can also be very toxic at high doses and especially when the exposure is 24 hours a day and 30 days in a row (or more).
For me, I had a headache for six weeks, but nobody knows how it is affecting the four small children at the end of my block who are having this exposure day and night for weeks. Not only can it make you sick, but it makes recreating at home or entertaining guests impossible. It is miserable to be outside.
As Puget Sounders we are all vested in the health of our marine ecosystems and these signs of stress are a message to us. Whether caused by fish pens in narrow straits in Puget Sound waters or the many sewage treatment plants that discharge into it or outflows of sewage from Canadian waters – all are contributing factors to “nutrient abundance,” which gives the false impression they are good for the environment. To turn the tide, we must promote aquaculture practices that mitigate these negative consequences to shellfish – like removing nets to promote flushing of shallow waters and have a holistic action place for Puget Sound to ensure a cascade of disruption is not occurring in other species.
Our planet is changing, our waters are warmer, and our obligation to protect our marine environment has never been more important. We are going to need to work together on a solution—because this could be the new norm.
Karen Bujacich McDonell, Gig Harbor
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