National Park officials have established that a water-borne parasite is responsible for the deaths of dozens of ducklings in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington DC over the past three weeks. As the parasites grow and develop in snails living in the pool, normal chemical treatments are not sufficient to combat the problem, leading to National Park Service (NPS) officials having to completely drain and clean the pool.

Blasting News recently reported on the newly installed duck ramps, placed to make life easier and safe for ducklings to access and leave the U.S.

Capitol Reflecting Pool. It turns out the ducks at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool need much more help these days.

Parasites in the pool are killing ducklings

NPS officials state that 80 ducklings have died in the reflecting pool since May 20. This led the National Wildlife Center to run a postmortem examination on the ducklings, which revealed they had died from the high level of parasites living and growing in snails in the pool.

According to a report by NPR, the parasite can cause problems with humans too.

Called a schistosome, the parasite is known to cause swimmer’s itch, as it burrows into the human skin, leading to an allergic reaction and itchy rash. However, according to the park service, the risk to humans from the parasite in the pool is very low, as it is normally caused by sustained contact with the affected water. Swimming is not allowed in the pool, although NPR does point out it has been done in the past.

The Washington Post quotes a spokesman for NPS, Mike Litterst, as saying the reflecting pool has a capacity of close to 4 million gallons. Litterst said the pool has been drained and cleaned in the past, but not due to parasites.

He added that it is not yet clear why the ducks were killed by the parasite this year, but did say they believe it could be related to a series of days in May where temperatures soared to 90 degrees. Litterst said the warmer weather might have made the parasite more deadly to the ducks, adding that this is something they are trying to figure out, but may never know.

Draining of the reflecting pool to begin Sunday

Work was set to begin on Sunday to start draining the pool, which officials estimate will take around two days to complete. On Tuesday workers will begin the task of cleaning the bottom of the pool, with all cleaning expected to do complete by Friday. Reportedly the pool will be refilled and back to normal again by June 19.

Once the pool has been cleaned and refilled, the NPS will monitor the conditions in the water. No mention was made as to where the currently surviving ducks will be relocated during the draining and cleaning process.

The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool has served as a backdrop to various historic events. As can be understood from its name, the pool offers a reflection of the Lincoln Memorial when looking westwards and a reflection of the Washington Monument when viewers look to the east.