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.
What YOU can do:
You can follow these easy steps to be part of the solution to pet waste contamination.
1. The first step is to always carry a plastic bag with you when you walk your dog. Re-using an old newspaper delivery bag or plastic grocery bag works well.
2. Using the bag like a glove, you can then pick up the pet waste, turn the bag inside out around the waste, seal the bag, and dispose of it in a trash can. You can also flush un-bagged pet waste down the toilet.
3. Don’t place the bagged or un-bagged pet waste in a storm drain or hose the pet waste towards storm drains as they drain directly to a stream, river, lake or other water body.
4. Cleaning up after your pets in your own yard is as important as cleaning up after them in public places.
Spread the word! Tell friends and neighbors about the affect 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. The SPCA sells Baggie Dispenser Boxes which you can fill with re-purposed grocery bags for poop scooping for $25. Visit this website for more information and to find out how to install a Baggie Dispenser in your neighborhood park.
SUSTAINABLE YARDS PROGRAM: Let us help you “green” your Lynnhaven watershed home. This unique program provides specific stormwater management practices to your yard at a significantly reduced cost to you.