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‘Stay out of seaweed-infested water!’ – Dr Cassander Titley-O’Neal PhD

- says water contaminated with hydrogen sulphide as a result of the seaweed infestation could be fatal to humans in large enough amounts
It has been confirmed that over the last few days fishes have been turning up dead in the water in places off Virgin Gorda and on Tortola to a lesser extent. Photo: Facebook/Dominic Bufton
Local environmentalist Dr Cassander Titley-O’Neal PhD. Photo: Provided
Local environmentalist Dr Cassander Titley-O’Neal PhD. Photo: Provided
Dead fish on Virgin Gorda. Photo: Facebook/Dominic Bufton
Dead fish on Virgin Gorda. Photo: Facebook/Dominic Bufton
Small dead fish floating near Village Cay in Road Town. Photo: VINO
Small dead fish floating near Village Cay in Road Town. Photo: VINO
Carcasses of fishes near Village Cay yesterday. Photo: VINO
Carcasses of fishes near Village Cay yesterday. Photo: VINO
More dead fishes, possibly from the sargassum seaweed invasion. Photo: VINO
More dead fishes, possibly from the sargassum seaweed invasion. Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – In the wake of fish kills and complaints of discoloured water from the taps, local environmentalist Dr Cassander Titley-O’Neal PhD is warning persons to stay away from the water in places invaded by sargassum seaweed because of the possible negative impacts on human health, including the potential to be fatal in strong enough doses.

It has been confirmed that over the last few days fishes have been turning up dead in the water in places off Virgin Gorda and on Tortola to a lesser extent.

While we have seen photographs taken on Virgin Gorda recently depicting dead fishes and lobsters, our roving cameras also found dead fishes in the water near Village Cay yesterday October 3, 2015.

“As it relates to swimming, in areas where the seaweed is stagnant and is decomposing, it is advised that no swimming should take place because of the release of hydrogen sulphide in the water and potential for swallowing it by accident,” said Dr O’Neal to this news site yesterday.

Low oxygen/low pH levels likely causing fish kills

“Let me first say that, although I have not done any recent water quality testing of the water samples. However, based on previous water quality data from areas around Road Town analysed earlier in the summer, it almost certain that the vast quantities of Sargassum seaweed that are washed up along the shoreline is changing the water chemistry of bays around the BVI. I was at Village Cay today, and there are several dead fish floating on the surface, including barracudas, mullets, gobbies, and baby lobsters,” said Dr Titley-O’Neal in an email to this news site.

She said that while the organisms living within the seaweed provide food for several species of birds, the sargassum in the large quantities is posing some environmental problems that are quite evident, such as the pungent odour of the shoreline and the recent fish kills.

"I suspect that it is the low oxygen levels coupled with the low pH levels that are more than likely contributing to the fish kills," said Dr Titley-O'Neal.

Strong enough to kill

According to her, oral ingestion of some sulphides has been reported to cause nausea, vomiting and epigastric pain, as well as an irritant to the mucous membranes; it has been estimated that an oral dose of 10 to 15 grams of sodium sulphide would be fatal to humans.

“To date, studies on human health consequences associated with prolonged low-level exposure to hydrogen sulphide, from air pollution, have not yet been carried out,” she said.

Discolouration due to compounds in the water

Dr Titley-O’Neal gave an explanation for the possible discolouration of faucets that persons have been reporting in the territory.

“A few residents in the Handsome Bay area on Virgin Gorda have reported that their faucets are becoming discoloured or blackened. This is likely due to a combination of different things. Firstly, the presence of hydrogen sulphide in the seawater, acts as a weak acid contributing to corrosion. Secondly, if there is hydrogen sulphide and soluble iron in the water, the combination of both compounds can cause black deposits on fixtures,” Dr Titley-O’Neal explained.

Prolonged inhalation not advisable

She noted that according to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the smell of the seaweed is offensive with an estimated concentration of 3 to 5 parts per million.

“Exposure of hydrogen sulphide at this concentration for a prolonged period of time can cause effects such as nausea, tearing of the eyes, headaches and loss of sleep, while persons affected by asthma, may experience airway problems.”

15 Responses to “‘Stay out of seaweed-infested water!’ – Dr Cassander Titley-O’Neal PhD”

  • wow (04/10/2015, 10:04) Like (20) Dislike (5) Reply
    father god comin for he world
  • cay (04/10/2015, 11:30) Like (6) Dislike (1) Reply
    climate change in the house
  • war (04/10/2015, 11:31) Like (12) Dislike (2) Reply
    This is a war. The best people to help are the owners of the fishing trallers. The sea weed need to be intercept before it reaches shore. Premier need to declare a state of emergency with regards to this. The waters are being poisened and people eat fish. who is testing this? Who is ensuring our food reserves are able to feed our people for a certain time. How is this affecting the water quality in the water tables. Who is testing the desal plants water quality. This is serious. The man said he does not pay any attention to agriculture well fella now is the time. We need to build up our food reserves.
    • @war (04/10/2015, 13:57) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
      Where are the food reserves? Does the government even have such a plan let's say for the government officials? Like the us government has a continuity plan in th case of a large scale disaster?
  • thank you (04/10/2015, 11:37) Like (13) Dislike (2) Reply
    Now she is making sense. The chief conservation and fisheries officer need to letbher be the spokes person as does not know what he is taking about.
  • Be proactive (04/10/2015, 16:35) Like (8) Dislike (1) Reply
    I have lived in different places around the world and I never seen a place where the government is just sitting back and think that the problem will go away on its own. They need to at least start cleaning up the seaweed once a week. In the meantime work on finding out a better long-term solution.
    • I am vex (04/10/2015, 20:45) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      With everything they just sit and wait. It's crazy really crazy. No one is saying anything. What is actually going on?
  • tola (04/10/2015, 19:15) Like (23) Dislike (4) Reply
    The government does not need to clean anything .We have nine districts each clean theirs we have service clubs we have people living and have businesses along the shores we have people in jail bring them out to clean up let it be a people for country effort
  • Charley Rose (05/10/2015, 03:06) Like (17) Dislike (2) Reply
    Indeed the seaweed is a problem and it needs to be addressed. Myron needs to get the youths for Walwyn to come out and assist to clean the beach. During the previous election the youths were campaigning for Walwyn. It is time for them to work for the country.
  • epicured (05/10/2015, 16:51) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    must be the secret ingredient in the slop at stench & slime sopers hole.
  • Joc (09/10/2015, 17:39) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Where is this seeweed comin from??? In all my 40 years on this island I never recalled having a seeweed infestation in the BVI??


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