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Hood Canal Research, Some Notes

(Hood Canal Dissolved Oxygen Program?)

This series of installments was inspired by a challenge I received because I stated that all of the articles being published by the media on the topic of algae and the decline of fisheries, particularly in Hood Canal, were lies. This challenge was also a reaction to my pieces, “Pond Scum” and “A Blumin’ Half Truth.”

The challenger cited Jan Newton’s website www.hoodcanal.washington.edu as a source for his stance. (Note: Newton is an employee of the University of Washington and works at the Applied Physics Laboratory. Her research apparently has the approval of that institution).

[Not included in my original response: As far as I know, after sewage is treated in a treatment plant, it is released into some waterway. Doesn't that mean the nitrogen is dumped into the water? I don't believe removing nitrogen is part of the treatment process. So, why just pick on septic systems? Perhaps we need to do what Chehalis is doing, treat the sewage with lime (calcium hydroxide) and heat (in the days of the outhouse, lye (sodium hydroxide), a stronger base, was used). Chehalis is then going to spread it over some acreage they own and grow corn. I have a bit of a problem in that they intend to sell the corn and compete with local farmers. I wonder if they know the difference between grain corn and sweet corn. In any event, we need to re-evaluate the whole area. Our waste has economic value. Many communities now sell the solids after treatment for making your soil or gardens richer. Maybe we should keep our own or charge them for it. By growing something with our own and keeping it out of the system, we would be reducing the amount of nitrogen going out, decrease the amount of energy used to maintain and run the system, and our plants and crops would reduce CO2 too.

A while back I read “Gasp! The Swift and Terrible Beauty of Air.” I have some issues with the author, Joe Sherman. (One I recall is his claim that the first air pollution in California was yellow. I think everyone knows it was brown. Why would anyone make that mistake)?

Anyway, Sherman described the blue-green algae (he called them “bubblers”) as being primarily responsible for converting our atmosphere from one of considerable CO2 to one rich in oxygen. It seems a bit of a stretch to claim the algae are now responsible for low oxygen. (I believe I offer good reasoning on this account in what follows). Also, think about home aquariums. Those without aerators usually have some kind of green thing growing to help replace the oxygen. Is it algae? Perhaps you can still find a small concrete backyard fishpond. The ones I recall had no fountain or waterfall. There was no mechanical aerator of any kind. There were lots of green things - - - moss, algae, lilly pads, etc. growing in the ponds. I can't recall ever seeing or hearing about one being cleaned. How did those fish in them survive?

What do you think that green stuff inside clams and oysters is? Better grow more! And, then eat them! Help remove the algae!

This wouldn’t be the first time our “scientists” got it just upside down. I think the term “political science” has taken on a new meaning].

My response:

I will do my best to explain what I meant by “lies.” It will take a few installments. I have looked briefly at Newton’s website, but it deserves more attention.

The first thing that jumped out at me was that the problem at Hood Canal was characterized as one of low dissolved oxygen. Isn’t this already a conclusion or is it an assumption? What evidence is there to justify this stand? Scientists do not jump to conclusions at the beginning of a study, and they disclose their assumptions. What things, if any, were eliminated before low oxygen was selected?

You and I may have a philosophical difference about what a “lie” is. Shading the truth, telling only part of the truth, omitting significant items, especially with the intent to deceive or mislead, all constitute “lies” in my book.

Imagine that you are the commander of a nuclear powered submarine about to embark on an extended underwater cruise. When you begin, the boat’s atmosphere is about 21 percent oxygen with very little carbon dioxide, CO2. There are several CO2 scrubbers on board used to keep the CO2 level low. The CO2 is a threat to the health even lives of the crew, but it is also the resource from which more oxygen is returned to the air inside. If there is a failure of all scrubbers, the oxygen could drop about four percent without harming the crew. This level may be about what one would find at 8,000 feet in the mountains or in an airplane. I believe oxygen is required around 10,000 feet for flyers without pressurization. (Check this. It’s been a long time since I looked into this). But, in our submarine, that four percent decrease would have gone to make CO2, and a four percent CO2 level would suffocate most if not all of the crew even though enough oxygen were there to keep them alive. (I believe this is true even if the oxygen remained at 21 percent). Questions: Would the commander characterize his problem as one of low oxygen or one of high CO2? What measurements would he make and which would be most important?

This hypothetical is for a closed system. Hood Canal is not, but obviously CO2 is part of the picture, and I will give Newton credit for mentioning it. However, did she discuss it sufficiently and properly? Or, did she fudge? If so, she lied in my estimation.

Newton has oxygen measurements. Were there no CO2 measurements? I saw no reference to any in my cursory look at her website. A true scientist would have to make some in order to exclude CO2 being a problem. For example, Newton uses the phrase “dead zones.” While I have nothing to suggest that under water discharges of CO2 from limestone breaking down in the earth’s crust is happening in Hood Canal, I believe this is very possible and likely in the ocean. Have you seen the under sea photos of gases escaping on the ocean floor? Ours is an area of volcanic activity, and CO2 is associated with it. CO2 measurements ought to help if such were the case. I believe it is a possibility that a scientist would not overlook and, thus, necessarily take measurements.

[Note: Just this past week, middle of April 2009, major seismic activity was detected off the Oregon coast that is believed to indicate the formation of an underwater volcano. Scientists are headed there to observe chemicals in the water. No mention was made of carbon dioxide in reports I saw. This is the area "dead zones" have been reported, also without mention of CO2. Carbon dioxide has been linked to other "dead zones"].

The “lies” I was referring to were specifically related to situations like Hood Canal and Anderson Lake, but I have catalogued similar “lies” in other areas where CO2 was a problem that was being obscured. These are important in assessing the scope and viciousness of the deception surrounding Hood Canal. I can go into these “lies” if you like, but I will stick with Ms. Newton and Hood Canal for now.

Let me leave this installment with a caution about Ms. Newton herself. She claims to have worked for the Department of Ecology. Perhaps you are aware that our Governor has joined with the State of California in suing the EPA in order to decrease CO2 emissions from automobiles. I find this particularly amazing. While head of the Department of Ecology, (I assume while Newton was there), our current Governor did everything possible to maximize the amount of CO2, percentage-wise or per unit volume-wise, produced by vehicles. I have observed enough to conclude we are not supposed to know this or what CO2 does at the local level.

One lie leads to another. I believe I have found the thread, and I believe they only know how to lie. They will protect each other. I can’t help but conclude Newton is biased. (I am, but I admit it).

Please question me and point out any errors you note.


Re: Link “Science of Hood Canal Hypoxia” at www.hoodcanal.washington.edu

Slide 42 and Slide 56 (mentions sunlight as a reason for the increase in algae (or maybe just organic matter, slide 56). The next logical step for a scientist, it seems to me, would be to mention the sun spot cycle as a reason for the change in sun light and either rule sun spots out or include them as a factor. Ms. Newton does neither.

Slide 40 jumps from 1966 to 1998. Data from 1967 to 1997 is missing. Curious. Could it be this data would show a correlation with the sun spot cycles? Another possibility is that it might show a correlation with the change in emissions which really began in the 1970s and were mostly implemented and very effective in producing CO2 in the 1980s, 1990s, and subsequently (recall that more CO2 requires more O2 be removed from the air). Also, the missing data might show the change began before the big development boom of later, making it difficult to put the blame there. Selective data for the purpose of deceiving? You might believe that the UW’s Applied Physics Lab and employees would not stoop to such devices. Don’t forget the problems at the UW’s Medical School and in the Athletic Department weren’t that long ago. Making “global warming” into a political issue has caused a lot of folks to lose their way. I can give you an excellent example from our local Peninsula College (see "Carbon Footprint Fraud") plus a host of others. There is very little morality at the UW and elsewhere.

Slide 37 – “sometimes no fish kills when low oxygen.” Fish are not that dumb. They can move. A very sudden event could surprise them, such as an overnight reduction in oxygen with a commensurate increase in CO2. See comments with slide 39, below. (Also, see my last installment). Is “upwelling” ($3 name for circulation) sudden? I rather doubt it. We’ve had “upwelling” at least since Rachel Carson, and probably before Jonah. Doesn’t life, including aquatic life adapt?

Slide 39 eliminated data from top 20 meters of water. Think about that! According to Ms. Newton, algae cannot use photosynthesis far below the surface because of reduced sunlight. What she fails to disclose anywhere is that they cannot photosynthesize above that, or anywhere else, at night or on dark days. My information on algae tells me that algae can remove all the oxygen in a body of water overnight (and replace it with CO2). Throw in a couple of dark days either side, and the whole problem could be caused by living algae respiring near the surface, in that top 20 meters! (You can then “downwell” it, if you like).

Ms. Newton doesn’t provide much of a discussion of algae. I almost think that the only algae she wants us to think about are the unusual ones. It just so happens that kelp and seaweed are also algae and all (most all?) algae are part of the food chain.

It is very unlikely that decomposing algae are responsible for the low oxygen. If algae get their carbon from the CO2 that is dissolved in the water and not out of the air, and if they then decompose 100 percent, there is just as much oxygen added to Hood Canal by their growth as there is removed during their decay. The difference would be one of timing. Until the last molecule decomposes, there is a net plus to the oxygen level. In fact, it must be better than this because a good portion of algae becomes part of the food chain after adding oxygen. Much of this carbon would be in the fish caught outside of Hood Canal. We also know that decomposition is not necessarily complete. With low oxygen, it cannot happen quickly (Newton never seems to acknowledge that you cannot have both low oxygen and much decomposition). Also, we know that it is natural for organic material to be buried in the sediments and not finish “decomposing” until burned much later (like millions of years later) as fossil fuel.


Re: Model of Hood Canal; www.hoodcanal.washington.edu

"Too many nutrients going into the canal is not a good thing because it can create an ecological imbalance."

We’ve been told this at the above website and over and over again with the connection to septic systems until many people accept it as gospel. I do not. If it were true, many more people in China would have starved (back when I didn’t want to eat my green beans and carrots) because of no fish. Even here, in those days, all sewage was dumped directly into Puget Sound without any treatment, and fish thrived near those areas.

It is hard not to laugh at the people who talk about the hundred pound King Salmon (pardon me, Chinook) that once filled the Elwha River and believe they will return if we would just remove the dams. They won’t return because there are not enough nutrients in the river. There are not thousands of animals going to the river or its tributaries each year for their last drink before they die and end up as fish or maggot food. The sky is not black with flies and other insects. How much poop would all those hundred pound salmon make? They also die and decompose in the river. What about all of the poop from many more birds and all those animals before they die? Does anyone complain about the Galapagos being too rich in nutrients?

There are cycles. Sometimes the floods do reach the hundred-year mark. Sometimes they fall way short. Before fish shortages were a real problem, there were years with bumper harvests and others that were disappointing. Cycles are not "imbalances." They are cycles.

In Winston S. Churchill's THE RIVER WAR, AN ACCOUNT OF THE RECONQUEST OF THE SUDAN, I found the following description concerning the Nile River:

" . . . The dysentery which had broken out was probably due to the 'green' water of the Nile; for during the early period of the flood what is known as 'the false rise' washes the filth and sewage off the foreshore all along the river, and brings down the green and rotting vegetation from the spongy swamps of Equatoria. The water is then dangerous and impure. There was nothing else for the army to drink; . . . "

(Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 2000, Page 140).

Today, January 24, (1965 at age 90) is the anniversary of Churchill’s death. If he were here, I would want to ask him if this killed the fish in the river. We should all know, in our hearts and minds, that a large amount of nutrients is what is needed for abundance. It is the reason the Nile was so fertile. It is the way it used to be even before man showed up. Those who would convince us otherwise are misanthropes.

Imagine a lavish banquet has been prepared for five hundred people. However, there has been a health scare at the hotel where the banquet is to take place (Legionnaire’s or Norwalk virus, etc.). In addition, there is a union dispute and all employees walk out. The assistant manager is one of the sick ones, and the manager, fearing more scrutiny will reveal his embezzlement, has departed for Tahiti with his mistress. The health department has other cases and forgets about this one. You are the only person who didn’t get the warning and show up. While going down the stairs, you slip and fall and are temporarily paralyzed. No one misses you for about three days. In the meantime, the shrimp and other delicacies only a few yards from you have become an annoyance. What is the problem here?

Too many nutrients? Too many nutrients decomposing? We could look at it this way. I don’t.

The problem is that no one was there to eat. There was a great abundance of nutrients that would be the envy of my Mom’s starving Chinese babies, well their parents, anyway, or almost everyone in the Sudan. Abundance is a blessing, not an imbalance. Someone would have it otherwise. (Those misanthropes again).

Fish eat plankton, but there are no fish or not enough to control the algae (plankton - - - Have you ever seen algae as another name for plankton elsewhere?). This is the real imbalance that you are not supposed to know about. If you did, you might demand more fish hatcheries and greater production from the ones we have. This is not part of their game plan. It is the opposite of what they want for you. Thus, they sow confusion and spout lies - - - over and over. A bumper crop of algae should lead to a bumper crop of fish.

It is also hard not to laugh (I would choose that because I don’t want to cry) when I see one of those "Salmon spawning stream" signs near some trickle. (Try to imagine what the water temperature is during August in one of these backyard streams next time you hear the argument that dams make the water too warm for fish). With development, the salmon in most of those disappeared. You don’t hear the real reason. The people who settled there didn’t like the smell when the fish returned and spawned. It was just like having a sewage treatment plant under your nose.

A few years ago, I made a visit to my old fishing haunts on the Skagit River (not to fish). At one point, I thought there must be a dairy farm close by that I didn’t know about. There wasn’t. It was just a backwater, one of the old channels of the river that was like a pond. It was teaming with dying salmon, dozens at a time surfacing and rolling slowly. My nose told me there was no difference between that pond and a cesspool. The pond was concentrated nutrient soup for nourishing the next generation of salmon, but the cesspool is supposedly evil. It may well be, but not because of the nutrients. Look for something else. You should be able to make a guess. Start with misanthropy.

There are too many oversights and omissions, too much misinformation to call Ms. Newton a "truth teller." I’d have to call her a liar. If she is a scientist, then, in my opinion, she appears to be an evil one. People like her don’t want there to be fish, and they will hold on and keep lying until it is too late to fix, if you let them.

And, that’s what I mean by "lies."


Part 4 – Continuing my comments on Jan Newton’s website www.hoodcanal.washington.edu

Reference to her slides 51 through 54 dealing with “eutrophication,” or the addition of nutrients. (May be a bit redundant viz. previous parts, but there is something I am trying to reach).

But, first, let me tell you about my “lawn.” I used quotes here because it is not much of a lawn. I doubt if anyone planted it. It was there when I bought the property and about a foot high. Part of it grows on a surface from which the topsoil was scraped away. Perhaps the previous owner planned to build there. Another part still has the original topsoil (digging in it reveals rich organic material) and also is more shaded, so it and has better moisture content.

Although I never water my lawn, the latter portion has never turned brown in the seven years I have owned my property. The scraped area has every summer.

Many of us are experienced with what I will call normal lawns, and are aware how fertilizers rich in nitrogen and phosphorus will make a lawn temporarily lush and green if properly watered. Most of these lawns have a minimum amount of what is called topsoil. Unfortunately, applying fertilizer is referred to as “feeding” the lawn and the fertilizer as “food.”

If I were to fertilize and water the portion of my lawn that turns brown, I would notice a dramatic change. Doing the same to the other portion would probably show very little change.

Current medical wisdom tells us that people who have a well balanced diet are wasting their money if they take vitamins.

Ms. Newton tells us that adding nitrogen as a nutrient to Hood Canal water has a more pronounced effect on algae than it does when added to the same type of algae in any other water in Puget Sound. This tells me that Hood Canal is too low in nitrogen! This is just the opposite of what she is trying to sell us by suggesting septic systems are to blame for the low oxygen in Hood Canal.

Slides 53 and 54 are a real challenge to grasp. In slide 53, Ms. Newton claims, “ … the phytoplankton (you must conclude yourself that these are the same thing as algae) can photosynthesize as long as they don’t run out of nutrients.” And, in slide 54, “So, we've established that Hood Canal is sensitive to the addition of nitrogen and will respond by an increase in organic production that will ultimately be respired, consuming oxygen.”

I have several problems here. My lawn that turns brown never gets a dose of nutrients from me. Yet, when the rains come again, it turns green and, therefore, must be photosynthesizing. How important can the nitrogen be if algae bloom is found to be abundant in Hood Canal without it (or is it with it)? It seems she would have it both ways. Which is it? Too many nutrients or not enough?

Is this a correct use of the word ‘respired?’ Doesn’t she mean ‘decomposed?’ If she means that the algae are respiring as they would in darkness, why would they be able to respire without nutrients? Doesn’t respiring require energy (a source of nutrients) also? We don’t respire without an energy source; we start decomposing? Wouldn’t such respiring algae be in the top 30 meters that she chose to ignore?

My information on algae tells me that they die when they run out of food, not nutrients. That food is CO2. The algae bloom and subside each year. That is their function. There are cycles. Some years are of prolific growth. When they hit their peak and photosynthesis is at maximum, they can take all the CO2 out of a body of water. Likewise, when it is dark, they respire and can take the oxygen out. If they die and decompose, then they become the nutrients!

[I will now jump into a lake and leave Hood Canal, sort of]. I remember swimming in lakes when the algae were blooming. Some years it seemed as though we were swimming in pea soup. I think I recall at least one year when there was a period we were told not to go swimming in one of those lakes, but I am not sure. Lewis Hanford Tiffany’s “Algae, The Grass of Many Waters,” Charles C. Thomas, 1958. (Originally published in 1938) will be the source for my next remarks. (Professor Tiffany realizes they don’t fit the strict requirements of being called a grass). He describes the “dog days of summer” in which his father wouldn’t let him swim in a midwestern lake because of the algae. It was an annual occurrence.

I get the distinct impression that we are supposed to believe that there is something unusual about the algae blooms being described in Hood Canal. I do not see it. I do not believe it. If they are getting more CO2 (food) than in years past (which I believe is true), that might be it. Otherwise, I remain skeptical.

It is hard to judge whether someone is trying to make a “mountain out of a mole hill” in this instance. I know that is what they are capable of, and I know that is what they have done over and over. (So they can continue to control our lives and cover up the damage they do with their policies). We don’t have any old geezers sitting around the cracker barrel telling us how things were “back when.” No stories of how the algae were so thick and strong one year that they pulled a dog into the lake and ate him. (Next to that, a couple dog poisonings from algae are nothing). Anyone who believed too much of what those old guys pedaled would soon find himself a laughing stock. You either developed perspective or you got labeled a fool. This kind of training and discipline (self imposed so you wouldn’t be fooled too many times) is now considered cruel and “bullying.”

We have a crop of people who seem to have arrived in a bubble and will settle for nothing less than “pristine,” whatever that means (I think it means sterile). They have no perspective, and they will say and believe almost anything. Ms. Newton and those who support her are among them. They have no reason to look hard at things people try to feed them. They seem to have the minds of babes, yet their stories exceed those of the cracker barrel in untruth, and there is not even one child to tell us, “The emperor is naked!” Who fed Ms. Newton? Who empowered her?

They should all go jump in a lake, preferably wearing concrete boots (birkenstocks, if they weigh enough and won’t come off). Make that Hood Canal - - - I think it needs the nutrients.


Re: Hood Canal Model www.hoodcanal.washington.edu and algae.

Some more information or anecdotes gleaned from Lewis Hanford Tiffany’s “Algae, The Grass of Many Waters,” Charles C. Thomas, 1958. (Originally published in 1938).

Opposite the title page is a painting called “The Weed Gatherers.” (Clew Bay, Connemara, Coast of Ireland, by T. R. Miles (the elder), about 1865). No, that is not a Panamanian schooner hiding in the mist. (Note: The Irish Potato Famine was from 1845 to about 1860). The algae (seaweed or “weed”) was put on the fields to enrich the soil in the same manner as manure or “night soil.”

{Aside: We can think of the failure of the potato crop as the cause of death for over a million Irishmen. But, that would not be exactly correct, and it does not explain the great hatred that developed for the British. To fully understand, you need to know about the "Corn Laws." Without going back and getting the precise details, let me say that these laws prohibited the shipment of grain to Ireland at a time plenty was available to deal with the famine. I wanted to throw this in because it is shaping up that millions could die as a result of our new "corn laws" i.e. ethanol subsidies. Is this another case of history repeating itself? Another instance of unintended consequences? Or, is it predictable when misanthropes acquire power}?

Some algae grow on ice and snow. “In Arctic and Anarctic regions there are so-called snow floras of algae (the Cryophytes) that pass their entire existence on the ice and snow.” (Page 51). Would a large increase in these algae help to melt the snow and ice?

We hear more and more about ‘red tides.’ “In fact the origin of the name, Red Sea, is traced to the occasional abundance of a red alga belonging to the blue-green group.” (Page 11).

Also, in reference to the ‘red tide,’ Tiffany writes, “… which changes the color of many square miles of water in the Gulf of Mexico at certain seasons to a reddish hue. It has repeatedly plagued the Florida coast, at least since 1844 (when records were first kept). It had catastrophic effects in 1916-17, and in the last ten years has also been of great importance. It has been reported from Japan to Africa to California. It should be said that the phenomenon is not related to the tides and certainly has no connection with the Reds. It may be very old, for there are those who think that the reference in Exodus, 7: 17,18 is to an early red tide: “… the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. And the fish that are in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river.”” (Pages 163-164).

“When fish swim into this discolored area, they make unusual movements, as if partly paralyzed, turn over on their backs and die.”

“It is reasoned, after studying dying fish, that the poison affects the nerves although its chemical nature has not yet been ascertained. It apparently does not clog the fish’s gills, and so death is not due to a lack of oxygen. Some scientists have shown that there is a depletion of oxygen in the water when the organisms are present.” (Pages 164-165).

Low oxygen necessarily implies high CO2. Those who have gone into areas of high concentrations of CO2, for example into the holds of ships where grain has decomposed or into wine vats, expired in the same manner as the fish. Strong and healthy men without respirators, who have gone into such atmospheres to rescue others, have immediately suffered the same fate. Death from CO2 cannot be detected in an autopsy. With all of our modern techniques and equipment developed since Tiffany wrote, who believes that some other chemical could not be ascertained if it were there?

Tiffany states that CO2 “… occurs in a dissolved state in water and its source is fourfold: the air, surface water entering the lake, oxidative processes within animals and plants or of organic compounds in the water and dissolved bicarbonates of calcium and magnesium.” The same would be true of Hood Canal. Also, the same sources would apply to the surface water entering the body of water. A significant increase in the CO2 content of the air above these waters should have some effect. In fact, people like Idso touted the “lush environment” that changing our emissions to produce more CO2 would bring. Since CO2 is one and one half times the weight of air, it can be poured like a liquid even though a gas. It tends to go down, seeks the lowest level, which would be right above the water surface, displaces air, and does not readily disperse. What would be the level inches above Hood Canal waters? Where is Newton’s research regarding such a change in the CO2 level? Why is it nonexistent?

There are algae and bacteria that can fix nitrogen (i.e., take nitrogen directly) from the air, which includes the air in water. It too contains nitrogen. They wouldn’t even need a septic system source. Where is the research determining if this could be a factor?

Well, it is not needed if you already have your conclusion, especially, when your main purpose is to mislead and control.

A little item to add - - - Some people in Oregon are now arguing that dams are causing algae to increase in the rivers. They think this is a good argument for removing the dams. How long have the dams been there without an increase in the algae? Why would it happen now, and why would the fish only recently start disappearing? I guess they don't have enough septic systems down there to blame. If they won't allow nuclear power, that means, realistically, more fossil fuels will be burned to generate electricity providing more food for the algae! Is this just another example of misanthropes finding another way to maximize CO2 while pretending to be opposed to it?

Why is it that dams can do the same thing as a septic system? Why is the role of CO2 never mentioned?

Copyright © 2008, 2009 Donald L. Beeman. All rights reserved.