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Information minister debunked on Golden Lead waste dumping

Biomedical scientist Ahmed Manjang has debunked clams by Gambia’s information minister Demba Ali Jawo, that the Fishmeal processing waste being dumped into the sea by Golden Lead is harmless. On his Facebook page, information minister clarified that the treated waste being dumped into the sea was not toxic as tests from a reputable lab in Senegal confirmed that there was no toxic in the waste water. 

Reacting to this clarification, Saudi Arabia based microbiologist rejected the claims by the information minister in a write up sent to Gunjur News Online which is reproduced herein verbatim.  

Short and Long Term Effect of Dumping Fishmeal Waste into Open Water Bodies- the honourable minister of information; D.A. Jawo was wrong.

Why dumping fish meal waste into an open water bodies is causing such a fuss? To a casual observer fish meal waste isjust blood and few solid materials from raw fish, but it is far more important and complex than just blood and few sloid waste, to be exact; fishmeal waste contains suspended solid that contain fat, proteins, high concentration of nutrient such as nitrogen, phosphorous and many more chemical elements. Nitrogen and phosphorous are main nutrients that forms bulk of common fertilizers, like NPK, dumping fish meal waste into water bodies is the same as dumping fertilizers into water if not worse. This article was written in direct response to the honourable minister of information; Mr. Demba A. Jawostatement concerning Golden Lead fish meal factory’sdumping of their waste into the ocean in Gunjur. Writing on his Facebook wall yesterday; 29/04/2018, Mr. D.A. Jawo stated that; “NEA took samples from treated fishmeal waste from Golden Lead Fishmeal factory in Gunjur and tested it at one of the most reputable labs in the sub region, the Pasteur institute in Dakar and results showed that the treated waste was not toxic and therefore posed no environmental hazard either to the community or to the flora and fauna” Nothing is far from the truth, from an NEA employee, I knew the Senegalese scientist advised NEA that the waste is very rich in nutrients such as phosphate and nitrate and they should treat the waste with chlorine before they dump it into the ocean. The presence of high concentration of these two nutrientscorroborated with our test results done in Germany, his advicethough was wrong, very dangerous and that is the main purpose of this article. Chlorine in itself if discharge in large quantities into the environment is an environmental pollutantand chlorine have no effect on in reducing the nutritional load of fish meal waste, but this is not the purpose of this article, discussion of Chlorine as an environmental pollutant have to wait for another day, here I will try to explain why it is dangerous to dump raw fish waste into the open water bodies. Unlike temperature and dissolved oxygen, the presence of normal levels of nitrates and phosphates usually does not have a direct effect on aquatic plants, insects or fish. However, excess levels of phosphates and nitrates in water can create similar conditions as fertilizers that make it difficult for aquatic plants, insects or fish to survive. Algae and other plants use phosphates and nitrates as a source of food. If algae have an unlimited source of phosphate or nitrates, their growth is unchecked. Abnormal growth of algae is a clear manifestation of a biological process called eutrophication. “eutrophication is an enrichment of water by nutrients salts that causes structural changes to the ecosystem such as increase production of algae and aquatic plants, depletion of species, general deterioration of water quality and other effects that reduce and preclude use” A bay or estuary or water body that has the soapy/milky colour of pea soup is showing the result of high concentrations of algae [Figure 1]. Large amounts of algae can cause extreme fluctuations in dissolved oxygen. Photosynthesis by algae and other plants can generate oxygen during the day. However, at night, dissolved oxygen may decrease to very low levels as a result of large numbers of oxygen consuming bacteria feeding on dead or decaying algae and other plants. Eutrophication – “The process by which a body of water acquires high concentration of nutrients, especially phosphates and nitrates, main components of highly proteinacious fishmeal waste. This typically promote excessive growth of algae. As the algae die and decompose, high levels of organic matter and the decomposing organisms deplete the water of available oxygen [anoxia], causing the death of other organisms, such as fish and smaller marine organisms [Figure 2]. Anoxia is lack of oxygen caused by excessive nutrients in waterways which triggers algae growth. When the plants die and decay, oxygen is stripped from the water, which then turns green or milky white and gives off a strong rotten egg odour [Figure 3].

Figure 1: Effect of second stage of eutrophication, red algae bloom at Bolong Fenyo lagoon in Gunjur, in the background is Golden Lead fish factory. Picture taken by Mr. Badara Njie Bajo.

Figure 2: effect of initial stage of eutrophication, floating dead fish at a local lagoon in Abene ,Southern Senegal. Another community struggling with fish meal factory environmental pollution. Depletion of free oxygen in water due to excessive presence of phosphate and nitrate. Picture take by Cassamance Horizon 

Figure 3: Final stage of eutrophication, red dead algae and other dead marine organisms decomposing to form soapy, smelly and frothing liquid at Gunjur Bolong Fenyo lagoon. Picture taken by Badara Njie Bajo The lack of oxygen is often deadly for invertebrates, fish and shellfish. drinking water that is high in nitrates, can interfere with the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen. Infants who drink water high in nitrates may turn “bluish” and appear to have difficulty in breathing since their bodies are not receiving enough oxygen. Just like dissolved oxygen, temperature, and pH, the amount of phosphates and nitrates in water is determined by both natural processes and human intervention, such as run off fertilizers, human and fish waste. Bodies of water may be naturally high in phosphates and nitrates or have elevated nitrate levels as a result of careless human activities, like the senseless dumping of fish waste by Golden Lead at Gunjur Beach. Most sources of excess phosphates and nitrates come from human activity, like industrial farming, human waste and factory waste like fish meal waste. The source of excess phosphate and nitrates can usually be traced to agricultural activities, human wastes, or industrial pollution such as fishmeal Factories. In the case of Gunjur Bolong Fenyolagoon, none of these parameters except fish meal waste werepresent, excessive level of phosphates and nitrates can only be attributed to Golden Lead fishmeal factory which sits just adjacent to the lagoon and at some point ran a waste pipe that pump fishmeal waste directly into the lagoon. 

At the height of this environmental violations, water sample from the Bolong Fenyo lagoon was obtained and sent to Germany for biochemical analysis, phosphates which is the limiting factor in eutrophication process came out with a concentration of 294,743 ug/ml, against optimal value of 1,631 ug/ml, an aberration of +17,974%. Since there is no other industrial activity taking place around the Bolong Fenyo this anomaly can only be attributed to the fishmeal factory that was pumping its waste into the lagoon. Since Phosphates is the limiting factor in the eutrophication process described above, nitrate on the other hand have direct effect on human and marine life. Nitrates are highly soluble, meaning that they easily dissolve in water. For many people in rural areas, like ours, the primary source of drinking water is well water, which may be contaminated with nitrates. Nitrates are colourless and odourless, so their presence cannot be determined without the use of special testing Equipment. Fish and aquatic insects can be affected indirectly by increased phosphates and nitrate concentrations in the Water. Basically, any excess phosphates and nitrate in the water is a source of fertilizer for aquatic plants and algae. In many cases, the amount of phosphate and nitrate in the water is what limits how much plants and algae can grow. If there is an excess level of phosphates and nitrates, plants and algae will grow excessively. Excess algae and plants in a body of water can create many problems. This will create stressful conditions for fish,, if they are stressed for a significant part of the day, they will not behave normally or reproduce. If the conditions persist for a long period of time, the stressed fish species may choose to leave that area or die off. Excess algae or plant growth is also unsightly as seen at the Gunjur Bolong Fenyo between February and May 2017 [Figure 1 and 3]. If you’ve ever been to a beach where mats of rotting algae wash up on shore or the bottom of the lake is teaming with weeds, it’s probably because excess phosphates and nitrates are available for plant growth, unless Golden Lead stop pumping their waste into the ocean it will not take long before we see these unsightly and unhealthy phenomena on our beaches. Excess plants and algae will also create conditions where organic matter accumulates. High densities of algae will create a condition where sunlight cannot reach very far into the water. Since plants and algae require some sunlight, plants and algae not receiving sunlight will die off. These dead plant materials will settle to the bottom of the water and bacteria that feed on decaying organic material will greatly increase in numbers. These bacteria will consume oxygen and, therefore, the level of dissolved oxygen in this water will fall to levels that are too low for many aquatic insects and fish to survive. Also, this can cause extreme changes in habitat. Fish that need gravel or sand for spawning may find nothing but mats of vegetation and muck so will be unable to produce offspring. Cumulative effect of eutrophication •​The disturbance of aquatic equilibria may be more or less evident according to the enrichment of water by nutrients (phosphorous and nitrogen) •​Abundance of particulate substances (phytoplankton, zooplankton, bacteria, fungi and debris) that determine the turbidity of the water •​Abundance of inorganic chemicals such ammonia, nitrites, hydrogen sulphide, etc. that in the drinking water induce the formation of harmful substances such as nitrosamines which are carcinogenic. •​Abundance of organic substances that give the water disagreeable odours or tastes •​The water acquires disagreeable odours or tastes (of earth, of rotten fish, of cloves, of watermelon, etc.) due to the presence of particular algae •​Disappearance or significant reduction of quality fish with very negative effects on fishing (instead of quality species such as trout undesirable ones such as carp become established) •​Possible affirmation of toxic algae with potential damage to the population and animals drinking the affected water •​Prohibition of touristic use of the lake and bathing, due to both the foul odour on the shores caused by The presenceof certain algae, as well as the turbidity and anything but clean and attractive appearance of the water; bathing is dangerous because certain algae cause skin irritation •​Reduction of oxygen concentration, especially in the deeper layers of the ocean/lake Conclusion Open water bodies are not commercial products like any other but rather a heritage which must be defended and protected at all cost, especially in the presence of deliberate industrial polluting factory who are refusing to pay for the treatment and responsible disposal of their waste. Despite the considerable efforts made by the locals to limit deliberate dumping of fish meal waste into the sea and nutrient enrichment which can lead to cultural eutrophication and the resulting algae bloom.The prevention and protection action that we must adopt to safeguard the water quality of our local estuaries and oceans as requested by the National Environmental Management Act [NEMA act], the scientific community and environmentalexperts, but to an increasing extent also by the Kombo Costal Communities, Gambian citizens, friends of the Gambia and responsible investors, is therefore increasingly important. Management of eutrophic process is a complex issue that will require the collective efforts of local scientist, National Environmental Agency, policy makers and citizens. In light of these significant repercussion and serious consequent economic, naturalistic and health damages, there is a clear need to curb wanton dumping of fish waste into our water systems that can lead to eutrophication, avoiding the collapse of the affected ecosystems. It is very important; the government of The Gambia empowers National Environmental Agency to execute their duties without fear or favours. Reference Michael F. Chislock (2013) Eutrophication: Causes, Consequences, and Controls in Aquatic Ecosystems - Nature Education Editor’s note: Ahmed Manjang is a Senior Researcher, King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Department of Pathology and Clinical Laboratory Medicine. 

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