Poop in the water

One of the rather inconvenient truths about water pollution was recently revealed to me. Despite the volume of contamination by negligent development practices, illegal dumping, chemical runoff, etc., the most significant contributor to water pollution in the creeks of the Charlotte area is dog poo.  Mind blown.

I love to walk my dogs around my quaint historic neighborhood.  In addition to our tree-lined sidewalks, residents of my community benefit from a fabulous greenway, spanning a few miles into Uptown Charlotte.  Marley, my very-feisty-yet-senior dog, loves his time on the greenway, and certainly enjoys marking his territory on every possible occasion.  There are plenty of remains from other dogs lining both sides of the greenway leading into the city.  Marley stops to sniff each one until he finds the perfect spot to contribute to the madness.

marley

This is my dog, Marley.  It looks like he smells something that you forgot to pick up!

Marley’s leash includes one of those handy poo-bag holders.  I almost always pick up the dropping he leaves.  On rare occasions, I have skipped this important step.  I truly didn’t think that my neglect was a big deal.  There are plenty of lazy dog owners in my neighborhood who do the same thing.  But I can no longer consider skipping the poo pick-up because I fully understand the consequences of my actions.

Last month, I had to good fortune to observe a presentation by Meg Fencil, the Program Director of Sustain Charlotte, a fantastic non-profit. (Side note, I plan to devote several upcoming blogs on their amazing work.)  Regarding the issue at hand, Meg shared some frightening statistics about the condition of the creek water in the greater Charlotte area.  And one of my main takeaways was the fact that the neglect of dog owners is one of the major contributors to this pollution.

If you are naive to the true effects that your dog’s poo can have on the water supply, I am not surprised.  Most people assume that the excrement is a natural fertilizer.  Many assume that the only reason to “curb” your pet is to prevent other people from an unfortunate encounter between the waste and their shoes.  As it turns out, this is far from the truth.

Skeptics are correct in their claims that feces is a natural fertilizer.  In the days when the buffalo roamed, humans didn’t create civilizations with municipal water lines and water treatment plants.  In our modern society, sidewalks are located just feet from streets, where storm drains line the pavement.  Water collected into these storm drains feeds into our creek system. This means that anything left in the proximity of the storm drain can end up polluting our streams and creeks.  Yes, this means that the poo left by your neighbor’s dog on your tree lawn could very well end up in your drinking water.

I love the top 5 reasons to scoop the poop as shared by the Durham, NC city government site:

Top 5 Reasons to Pick Up After Your Pet

  1. To Protect Our Water: Pet waste left on the ground gets washed by rain into drains and ditches that flow into our local waterways. This water is not treated. All the bacteria, viruses, and parasitic worms in the waste get into our water. The same water we swim in, fish from, and drink.
  2. To Stay Healthy: Dog waste can contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Leaving it in your yard means bacteria is likely to get tracked into your house. Wastes can also attract flies and rats which carry additional diseases.
  3. Dog Poop Isn’t Fertilizer: It is very acidic and will burn plants and grass. Extra nutrients don’t sink into our clay soil. Instead they wash away into our creeks and streams and cause alga to grow.
  4. Your Neighbors Will Like You Better: No one likes dog poop. Your neighbors don’t want to see, step in, or to smell dog poop. They will appreciate you picking up after your pet.
  5. It’s Not Going Anywhere: Poop does not magically disappear. Dog waste can take up to a year to break down. An average dog creates almost 100 pounds of waste a year – that is a lot to leave lying around.

So, please think twice about leaving your dog’s mess.  Not only is it unsightly and stinky, it’s a major source of pollution.  Please also share this info with all of the pet-lovers in your life.  I believe that this issue could be easily addressed if more people were aware that their actions were causing long-term damage to our water supply.

 

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