Scoop the Poop
Pet Waste and Water Quality: It’s Not Just on the Lawn, It’s in Your Water
What is the problem?
Scooping your pooch’s poop isn’t just a courtesy for those walking behind you; it is also the healthy and environmentally sound thing to do. Pet waste can be a significant source of water pollution. When pet waste is not properly disposed, it can be carried by rainwater runoff directly into nearby waterbodies or into storm drains. Storm drains in streets and neighborhoods flow directly to a stream, river, or estuary without any treatment. Untreated animal fecal matter and wastes are a source of harmful bacteria and nutrients in water. Just as we don’t want human sewage in our water, it is important to prevent pet waste from being carried into our waterways because of negligence.
Are you risking your health?
People are at risk of getting sick from drinking or swimming in water contaminated by pet waste. Dogs can be significant hosts of disease causing organisms, including giardia and Salmonella, which are protozoan and bacterial infections transmitted to humans by animals. Our beaches in Virginia Beach have been closed due to bacteria contamination and 60% of the Lynnhaven River is closed to shellfish harvest because of bacterial contamination.
The latest research
The environmental impact of dog waste has gone unrecognized for decades. Scientists recently developed a new lab technique of fingerprinting DNA to match bacteria found in the water to the bacteria from specific animals, including humans and domestic animals. Using this type of forensic science, scientists have found that dogs are a significant contributor of harmful bacteria in our waterways.
Other neighborhood water pollutants
Dog waste is only one of many pollutants from our neighborhoods that add to water pollution. Lawn fertilizers, motor oil, driveway sand and salt, and soapy water from washing cars in driveways commonly end up in our streams, lakes and rivers.
Spread the word
Tell friends and neighbors about the effect of animal waste on the environment and our health. Encourage them to clean up after their pets and to dispose of the pet waste properly.
For a printable version of this page, click here.