Summer is finally coming! But before you grab your dogs and umbrellas and head to the beach, think twice about how you collect and dispose of their waste. Dog and other animal waste account for a large amount of the fecal coliform bacteria found in local water systems. The majority of fecal coliform found in storm water is of non-human origin and in 1991, the EPA actually classified dog poop as a non-point source environmental pollutant. This waste’s harmful composition can then be carried to rivers, beaches and storm drains. Too much can leave swimming areas unsafe for summertime use. Algae and weeds in waterways thrive on the microorganisms in dog waste and are one of many causes of harmful algal blooms.
A study examining dog waste cleanup for New Hampshire beaches noted that more dog waste was collected from beaches in the winter beach season due to less dog restrictions being in place (an average of 5.1 piles of waste per cleanup as opposed to only 1.5). At Ocean Beach in California, it is believed that animal feces left on the beach were responsible for viruses found to affect human health. Dog restrictions appear to lower the presence of dog waste left behind, though it should be considered common courtesy to always clean up after your dog on any beach.
So what can you and your dogs do to help? Always pick up after your pet, and if you bury your pet waste, be sure to bury it at least five inches deep so rain will not wash the waste and bacteria into local waters. Don’t contribute to watershed pollution because it is too much work – pick up after your pet!