Joan Schramm [letters, Aug. 8] was right to deride Hobey Bauhan of the Virginia Poultry Federation for defending Shenandoah Valley poultry and dairy farmers against charges that their manure disposal is the source of repeated fish kills and the obvious foul water of the Shenandoah River [letters, Aug. 4].

The excessive amount of animal waste in the valley has been known to scientists and researchers for years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Virginia Tech (in 1998, 2001 and 2003) have indicated that the poultry and dairy manure produced annually in the valley cannot be absorbed and applied onto cropland and pasture. The excess phosphorus and nitrogen from the manure enter the surface water and contaminate the Shenandoah River, the Potomac River and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.

The solution, according to the researchers, is for poultry and dairy farmers to remove the manure and chicken litter from the valley to other areas of the United States, to convert the manure into benign products that don't pollute, and to eliminate chemical fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus because these elements compound the problem.

Ultimately, Virginia must enforce federal clean water laws. So far, it has lacked the political will. But fishermen, boaters and the rest of the public deserve to be able to enjoy the Shenandoah River, which has degenerated into a sewer of smelly algae and dead fish.

JOHN REEDER

Arlington