Thursday, February 19, 2009

The untreated sewage of Canis familiaris

Every year around this time, the melting snow and ice reveals hundreds of turds that lazy dog owners have left behind over the course of the winter. It's disgusting and infuriating: why do people see fit to turn our streets and sidewalks into open sewers?

If you read this blog, you know where the street shit is destined: it'll wash down a storm drain, and into the nearest river or harbor. In many cities, domesticated dogs are a significant source of fecal coliform bacteria in urban waterways and beaches. For those of us who live next to Casco Bay in Portland Maine, all that water-borne fecal bacteria will be absorbed and filtered by the bivalves and bottom-feeding crustaceans that are beloved to gourmands. Although maybe a bit less so, now.

According to the EPA, "Pets, particularly dogs, are significant contributors to source water contamination. Studies performed on watersheds in the Seattle, Washington, area found that nearly 20 percent of the bacteria found in water samples were matched with dogs as the host animals." A 2002 USA Today article summarized more research about the problem:
"The environmental impact of dog waste went unrecognized for decades. Then scientists developed lab techniques to determine the origin of fecal bacteria contaminating water... At Morro Bay, Calif., for example, dogs contribute roughly 10% of the E. coli, says Christopher Kitts, a microbiologist at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. "And that can be the difference between a beach closing and a beach not closing," he says."
Let's be perfectly clear about this: if you're not picking up after your dog, you're essentially dumping untreated sewage into the nearest stream, lake, or ocean.

No comments: