One of the most common pollutants we see in our rivers and ocean is bacteria, especially fecal bacteria like Ecoli. This is a health risk, because it can make people sick from just going swimming.
Katie Altman, a Water Resources Agent with Clemson Extension, says “One of the huge sources of fecal coliform bacteria is dog poop. We have alot of dogs in a pretty small area in alot of our cities, and so if people don’t pick up that dog poop and dispose of it properly, it gets picked up by rainwater and carried into our waterways.”
There have been multiple studies using DNA analysis of fecal bacteria in waterways throughout Horry and Georgetown Counties. The results of these studies show that most of the bacteria comes from dog waste.
One of the reasons people give for not cleaning up after dogs, is that wildlife is pooping in the woods and nobody is picking that up. However, since urban areas have paved surfaces and much larger concentration of dogs it leads to more bacteria getting into the water. Rainwater doesn’t have a chance to penetrate into the ground getting rid of some of that bacteria. It just runs over the pavement and straight into our water sources, taking bacteria with it.
“The absolute best thing you can do to get rid of your dog poop, and the easiest thing is to just pick it up with a plastic bag and throw it away in the trash can. Alot of places like dog parks have pet waste stations that provide bags for you to pick up your dog poop. Just slide it over your hand like a glove, pick it up, tie it up and throw it away. And alot of orgainzations, like Carolina Clear provide these little pet waste bag dispensers so you can just attach it to your leash and you know that you always have it when you walk your dog.” – Katie Altman.
Dog waste should not be composted. Temperatures while composting do not get hot enough to kill bacteria. The best way to get rid of it is to throw it in the trash, or flush it down the toilet.
As a coastal community, beaches are very important. When bacteria levels get too high after a heavy rain, it is because stormwater is picking up bacteria from dog waste, or failing septic systems. When that happens, beaches and shellfish beds are closed, and people are not able to enjoy the sand and the surf and aren’t able to eat some seafoods, like oysters.
This past summer we had many beach closures due to high levels of bacteria. Picking up after your pets will help reduce the beach closures.