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Monday, December 6, 2021
Home General Almost no dissolved oxygen in parts of the New River

Almost no dissolved oxygen in parts of the New River

ORANGE WALK, Fri. June 25, 2021– The Department of the Environment continues to conduct sampling at the Belize New River, where a number of mass fish deaths have occurred, and on Wednesday, June 23, it released its first report, in which it presented an analysis of the current state of the river.

During the month of May, 20 key sample points were examined between the Lamanai Lagoon and the Corozal Bay area. The analysis following the sampling exercise noted critical observations about two of the thirteen parameters used to measure the health of the river.

The first parameter observed was the chlorophyll concentration, which could indicate the presence of algae. While algae and its photosynthetic process is essential to everyday life, an excess of it could be harmful to aquatic life — including the fishes in the river.

Increased chlorophyll levels lead to a fluctuating dissolved oxygen concentration, which is the second critical parameter that was noted in the Department of Environment’s report. Dissolved oxygen is the amount of oxygen that is present in a water body. Like humans, aquatic organisms, including the fish in the river, also require oxygen to breathe. Dissolved oxygen levels are key to a river’s ability to sustain aquatic life.

Aside from the byproducts of photosynthesis, many algae also produce toxins that can be detrimental to health when found in large quantities. This build-up may be followed by a displeasing green scum and odor, which has been observed in parts of the Belize New River.

The experiment conducted by the Department of Environment noted that the area between the toll bridge in Orange Walk District and the Trial Farm Village is a critically stressed system. The report stated that the dissolved oxygen levels in the river are near an anoxic (no dissolved oxygen) state, and there are high concentrations of chlorophyll.

The area in question is surrounded by industrial, agricultural and urban sites, and as a result the current levels may be a result of the activities in the surrounding areas. Waters that contain high levels of nutrients from fertilizers, sewerage systems and urban run-off often have high chlorophyll concentrations and excess algae biomasses.

The eutrophication of the New River, which is the longest river that is entirely confined to Belize. and which forms part of the New River Lagoon that serves as Belize’s largest freshwater body, has diminished the ability of the river to sustain life — both the fishes and other aquatic organisms in the river and the wildlife that inhabit the surrounding area, including reptiles and birds.

The public may no longer be able to consume fishes from the river, and the toxins released from the river may harm communities surrounding the river.

The Department of the Environment calls on the public to join in the restorative process of the river. The public is encouraged to comply with their property guidelines and to report any irregular discharges in the river. The release from the Department of Environment says, “Industries, farmers and the public can assist the relevant authorities by ensuring that they are complying within their property with adequate waste management practices and vegetation buffer along the river to reduce the organic load entering the river.”

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