The Scoop on Poop

Many volunteers seem to have concerns about bacteria in their lakes. We may not like the green water associated with algae blooms or the brown water associated with eroded soil, but it’s the bacteria that most people are really worried about. And that’s for a good reason, fecal bacteria can cause sickness.

Usually we look around the landscape for the source of the offending bacteria. Septic systems, lagoon overflows, municipal sewer systems are all subject to careful scrutiny. There is another source of fecal coliform bacteria contamination that is frequently overlooked, and that is pet waste. In fact, two studies found that 95% of the fecal coliform bacteria in urban stormwater was not from humans.

There is an estimated 5,000 pounds of poop generated each day from 12,000 dogs in one watershed of a Washington D.C. suburb (0.42 pounds per dog per day). What happens to all of that stuff? If it isn’t picked up it dissolves in the rain and snow eventually. But it doesn’t just “go away”. It runs downhill and into the nearest waterway. If you live on a lake, that’s where it goes.

Yes, your sweet pooch that is all smiles and kisses at one end, is busy polluting with the other. Picking up after our pets is the best way to prevent their waste from getting in our lakes and streams. It seems, however, that only about 40% of us do that. Women are more likely to pick up the stuff than men are, according to the Center for Watershed Protection.

It’s a shame we aren’t more likely to pick up after our animals. Just one day of dog doo can contain 4.4 billion fecal coliform bacteria. Dogs can be hosts for Giardia and Salmonella, two diseases caused by microbes that can adversely affect human health. These issues are resolved by simply picking up the poop.

After picking up our puppy’s “gift” we have a few options. We can flush it down our toilet where it will be treated just like human waste, we can throw it away with our trash, or we can bury it. If you choose to bury your pet waste, be sure to put about eight inches of soil on top and don’t bury it too close to the lake. Also, don’t mix pet poop with your vegetable garden. It’s OK to compost dog doo, but don’t use the resulting mixture where children will be playing or where you will be growing food.

Another option I haven’t covered yet is a professional service that will scoop up and dispose of your fido feces in a friendly fashion, for a fee.

Tony Thorpe

For more information, click this link


Brought to you by the Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program