What to Doo about Pet Waste

By David Ernes – Lake Management Committee

You have heard many statements linking manure from farm animals, and manure spread on agricultural fields to increasing phosphorous in our lakes and streams. But are you aware that waste from our pets can also be a source for nutrients as well as disease-causing bacteria and parasites that can get into our lake? In some articles, dog waste is cited as the third or fourth largest contributor of bacterial contamination in urban watersheds. Some estimates have an average dog generating a half to three-quarters of a pound of waste per day, or 270 pounds per year. Studies also indicate that 60% (or less) of pet owners pick up their pet’s waste. The EPA has indicated that 2-3 days of waste from just 100 dogs could generate enough pollution (nitrogen, phosphorous and bacteria such as E. Coli) to close a beach, and can affect the watershed for 20 miles.

In researching this article, I found some other interesting facts. Unlike manure from cows, who eat a grass-based diet, dogs are fed a protein-based diet, which results in a highly acidic waste that will kill the grass if not picked up. It is also estimated that dog waste can take up to one year to completely breakdown. The natural ecosystem can only process and absorb the waste from two average dogs per square mile. If the ecosystem cannot absorb the waste fast enough, the bacteria and nutrients will be carried by rain into the watershed, and ultimately any body of water nearby (like our lake).

What can you do? Pick up your pet’s waste. Even if the ground is snow covered, once thawed, the waste will still contribute to the problem. This is important not only on your yard but also in public areas (including RA lots), and on the street, where it can leach into the ditches along the roadways and end up in the lake. Remember, an unimproved lot is not an invitation for pet owners to skip the cleanup process. Once collected, most web sites recommend three options for disposal – flush down the toilet, bury in the yard, or dispose of in the trash. A “green” option often mentioned is composting. However, typical composting does not result in enough heat to totally destroy all harmful agents (bacteria, parasites) in the waste, so use caution. If the pet waste does end up in compost, it is recommended the compost not be applied to plants that will be eaten or are intended to be brought in to the home for decoration.

So if we “doo” the right thing, we can help reduce another controllable source of pollution to our lake. But don’t forget, a barking dog is a good deterrent for the Canadian geese that are also part of the problem.  Several articles have been written on this issue.

BE LAKE RESPONSIBLE

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