Dog Waste & Water Pollution: Effects and Prevention

Dan Klune, Katrena MacFarlane, and Amy Calci   Contributing Writers

While it may be unpleasant to pick up after a pet, the implications of leaving waste on the ground may be more serious than anyone anticipated. Dog feces is a major contributor to storm water pollution. It has been proven to be higher in phosphorus concentration than cow or swine manure, making the nutrients more potent and harmful when carried away in surface runoff. Phosphorus is poisonous and combustible, and is a danger to water quality.

In addition, harmful bacteria and parasites can be found in the waste, and represent a major source of overall water contamination. The average dog produces approximately three-quarters of a pound of poop every day. By not picking it up, you could be poisoning your water supply.
The quicker the feces are picked up, the better. The bacteria in the feces becomes increasingly contagious the longer it sits out in the yard. It takes as little as 24 hours for parasites to “ripen,” posing a threat. Additional constituents to be aware of include coliform bacteria, Giardia, Salmonella, and Campylobacter. All pose risks to human health.
It’s not just human consumption to worry about; dog feces can have harmful effects on the environment as well. When pet waste is washed into lakes or streams, the waste decays, using up oxygen and sometimes releasing ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia combined with warm temperatures can kill fish.
How can a person look after their health and the environment by picking up after your dog? It may not be as simple as putting it in the trash. Waste taken to landfill or incinerator can still cause pollution problems. Check local ordinances first. Putting pet waste in the trash is against the law in some communities. Even if legal and easy, it is not the best solution. Prevention tips include: flushing dog waste down the toilet, where it will be treated by your septic or sewer treatment plant. Burying waste at least five inches deep can reduce the likelihood that the waste will contaminate surface runoff.
Many communities have “pooper scooper” laws that govern pet waste cleanup. Some of these laws specifically require anyone who takes an animal off their property to carry a bag, shovel, or pooper-scooper. Any waste left by the animal must be cleaned up immediately. Call your city or village clerk to find out more about local pet waste laws.

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