Pet Waste, Water Quality & Your Health
Health and Environmental Risks of Pet Waste
Pet Waste Resources and Links
The District's Pet Waste Management Projects
Why you should pick up after your pet…
Pet waste is the source of two types of pollutants: pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms), which have a direct effect on human health, and nutrients, which influence the environment you live in.
When rain or snow melt runs over the land it can carry pollutants like uncollected pet waste directly or by way of a storm drain into nearby streams, lakes, ponds, or wetlands. This polluted stormwater runoff, also called Nonpoint Source Pollution, can degrade water quality, and impair aquatic health. Leaving pet waste on the ground in your neighborhood will risk contaminating nearby streams, lakes, beaches, your yard, neighborhood, local parks or even drinking water supplies, and makes waters unsuitable for recreation.
Pet waste adds nitrogen and phosphorus to the water. In large amounts, these nutrients encourage
the runaway growth of algae and aquatic weeds, which can impact the health and quality of our waters, making them murky, green and smelly.
Pet waste contains pathogens, such as Giardia, roundworms, Salmonella, and parvovirus, which can end up in our water where they may pose a health risk. Leaving the pet waste anywhere on the ground may expose children, adults and other pets to diseases. There is also a real risk of getting sick from drinking or swimming in waters contaminated by pet waste.
Is YOUR pet the problem?
It may seem that your pet does not have much of an impact, but consider all of the other pets in your neighborhood, town, and even state. That is a lot of pets doing their daily business! Even if only a fraction of pet waste is not picked up it can add up. When fecal bacteria are found in water, researchers are able to use a DNA-fingerprinting technique (microbial source tracking) to see whose waste it was. Often, dogs are found to be one of the major contributors of waste (www.stormwatercenter.net).
The Food and Drug Administration estimates that, on average, one dog will produce ¾ lb of waste a day.
That means YOUR dog’s excrement equals:
But isn’t animal waste natural?
It is, but in developed areas with paved surfaces and lawns, pet waste can easily be carried by runoff directly into nearby water resources. In naturally vegetated areas pollutants from decomposing waste can be captured by the underlying soils; however, in parks and open spaces popular with dog walkers, waste can build up, becoming a serious problem.
What can you do? It’s simple!
Pet waste pollution control begins with you:
Always bring a plastic bag, or two, when you walk your dog! You can carry bags in your pocket, tie them to your leash or belt loop, or use a doggy bag holder that fits on to your leash.
Use the bag as a glove to scoop the waste, then turn the bag inside out and seal. You can keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you or wash your hands with soap and water when you are done bagging.
DISPOSE OF IT!
Place the bag in a trash can or flush it, unbagged, down a toilet. Never dispose of pet waste in a storm drain as it
will then flow directly, untreated, to your local waterway. Pet waste can also be carefully buried at least 5” deep, away from vegetable gardens or waterways, or even composted.
PET WASTE MANAGEMENT RESOURCES AND LINKS
Outreach materials developed by the District:
Pet waste postcard
Pet waste poster
Pet waste brochure
To learn more about pet waste as a nonpoint source pollutant, please visit the following sites:
101 Reasons to pick up pet poop!
Environmental Education North Carolina informs about pet waste
North Carolina Division of Water Quality
NHDES Pet Waste Program
Earth 911 Making every day Earth Day: Stormwater pollution
Clean Water Education Partnership – Eeeew, Dog Doo!
Stormwater Education Toolkits from the University of Central Florida
California’s Education Website for Erase the Waste “Water Quality Service Learning Program”
Georgia’s Clean Water Campaign
FDA Consumer magazine, Keeping Pets (and People) Healthy, Jan-Feb 2004 Issue
Working Dogs Health Articles
What are other communities doing?
Many other communities around the U.S. have implemented their own pet waste pollution control campaigns. To learn more about pet waste pollution concerns and what other communities are doing, please visit the following sites:
City of Memphis Stormwater Information
Snohomish County, Washington, Public Works: Surface Water Management
North Central Texas Council of Governments
Washington State Department of Ecology. Focus on Pet Waste Management
Burlington Eco Info and the Burlington Neighborhood Project in Vermont
Find dog-friendly places and parks to visit in Connecticut:
CT dog-friendly travel places
CT dog parks from Ecoanimal.com
CT dog parks from Doggeek.com
THE DISTRICT’S PET WASTE MANAGEMENT PROJECTS
In the spring of 2007, the District developed and initiated “Give a Bark for a Clean State Park.” This pet waste education and outreach campaign focuses on our state parks in collaboration with the CT Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The purpose of the campaign is to build awareness of the health and environmental risks of pet waste. This project is funded in part by the DEP through a US EPA Clean Water Act Section 319 grant.
Chatfield Hollow State Park (Killingworth, CT)
Working with Connecticut’s Chatfield Hollow State Park, a favorite place for many dog walkers, the District sponsored a campaign in the Summer of 2007. In addition to education on pet waste disposal, the project included establishing disposal stations and providing FREE pet waste bags for dog walkers’ convenience! Take a bag from one of our stations around the park to scoop your dog’s poop and use the trash bin for clean and safe disposal. This pet waste station map shows the locations of disposal stations in Chatfield Hollow.
Wadsworth Falls State Park (Middletown, CT)
In 2009 the District worked on a similar project at Wadsworth Falls State Park. With support from park staff, the District installed pet waste stations and spread the word about the benefits of cleaning up dog waste.