Dog Poop Can Lead to Unsafe Drinking Water

Pet waste presents a real hazard to people and pets. In 2014, Toledo, Ohio faced a water crisis due to an algal bloom in Lake Erie.

The news reported that increased nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the lake caused the algal bloom. Sources of nitrogen and phosphorus include industrial businesses, farms, and pet waste. The nitrogen and phosphorus provide the blue-green algae with a food source. The algae in turn produce a toxin called microcystin. Because of the microcystin in the water supply, the local government called for a ban on tap water during the crisis.

In July 2001, the EPA released a fact sheet titled: Source Water Protection Practices Bulletin: Managing Pet and Wildlife Waste to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water.

lake erie beach

The researchers found, “20 percent of the bacteria found in water samples were matched with dogs as the host animals,” in Seattle, WA watersheds. The report lists Cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, and Salmonella as infectious organisms in dog waste that can cause a range of symptoms from skin sores to chest pain. E. coli is another problem found in dog waste. The EPA reported, “virulent strains of E. coli can cause serious illness and fatalities.”

Parasites, such as roundworm and hookworm, are transmissible to humans. Roundworm infections may lead to vision problems while hookworm infections may lead to anemia.

“So even flushing your pets’ waste is not the optimal solution if treatment plants cannot effectively manage the pathogens in dog waste.”

An EPA pamphlet titled After the Storm explains how pet wastes can be a major source of bacteria and excess nutrients in local waters. The pamphlet suggests flushing pet waste as the best solution to controlling pollutants from entering waterways. However, the 2001 fact sheet explained how Cryptosporidium, an organism likely to inhabit dog waste, is not treatable by chlorine. So even flushing your pets’ waste is not the optimal solution if treatment plants cannot effectively manage the pathogens in dog waste.

Another EPA source recommends picking up pet waste. Another EPA source stated, “Pet wastes, a significant source of nutrient contamination, should be disposed of properly.”

This should be a reminder that no matter where you live, you should pick up after your dogs. Leaving waste to lie around your yard or on a sidewalk is sure to allow storm water to flush it into storm drains where it will go untreated before entering source water.

We get it. You have more important things to do with your time than to clean up dog poop. So why not hire someone to handle the dirty work for you? In Central Kentucky, PetCorps Professional Pet Care provides dog waste cleanup service in five counties. We find, collect, and haul away dog waste for safe disposal. For more information about our services, contact us.

Outside of Kentucky, find a pooper scooper near you by visiting the following directories:

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