Progress

Picking Up Pet Waste to Protect Our Waters

Proceeds from the Vermont Conservation License Plate generate funds that are distributed by the departments of Environmental Conservation and Fish and Wildlife under the Watershed Grants Program. Using watershed grant funds issued by DEC and DF+W in 2015, the Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) coordinated a series of “April Stools’ Day” and spring clean-up events at parks, recreation areas and trail sites in the Vermont to clean parks of dog doo. April Stools’ Day and “Scoop the Poop” programs used a fun event to help raise awareness of the environmental and health effects of left behind pet waste, enlist citizens in taking care of their public parks, and reduce the nutrients and bacteria going into our waterways with spring melt.

Besides the foul smell and the unpleasantness of stepping in hound mounds, pet poop is bad for waterways, lawns and people. Pet waste carries nutrients that feed the growth of weeds and algae in the water. EPA estimates that two or three days’ worth of droppings from just 100 dogs contributes enough bacteria to temporarily close a waterbody to swimming and fishing. Woof-waste doesn’t make good fertilizer; it burns grass and leaves unsightly discoloring. Infected pet poop can carry the eggs of roundworms and other parasites (like cryptosporidium, giardia, and salmonella) which can linger in soil for years. Anyone gardening, playing sports, walking barefoot, or digging in the infected dirt, risks coming into contact with those eggs. Children are most susceptible since they often play in the dirt and put things in their mouths.

Five project events were held in 2015 in these community parks and trails:
April 22 in Burlington
April 25 in Bristol, St Albans and Williston
May 2 in Stowe

Team Rockstar makes the first delivery of nearly 15 pounds of dog doo. Photo credit: Lori Fisher

Team Rockstar makes the first delivery of nearly 15 pounds of dog doo. Photo credit: Lori Fisher

The events kept several thousand pounds of dog waste out of waterways and helped raise awareness about water quality problems and the negative impacts from left behind dog waste. All the communities that participated are interested in hosting annual events. The program strengthened or initiated partnerships to continue the effort to raise awareness of the issue and protect waterways. LCC identified and worked with a community partner in each of the designated event locations: Burlington Parks and Recreation in Burlington, The Watershed Center in Bristol, Friends of Northern Lake Champlain and the Northwest Regional Planning Commission in St. Albans, Sustainable Williston and the Williston Parks and Recreation Department in Williston, and a team of gung ho businesses in Stowe. The informational fliers, event tabling, posters, program publicity and presentations and the corresponding publicity and education resulted in a sizeable volume and mass of dog stools removed from community trails and kept out of waterways.

The publicity and outreach for the events helped raise awareness that not picking up after pets is an issue and one that pet owners can readily address. All of the participating communities and partner agencies have pledged to host events annually and LCC plans to expand the program in subsequent years.

More information about pet waste and what you can do to control and avoid pet waste impacts are at LCC’s web site:
https://www.lakechamplaincommittee.org/lcc-at-work/bacteria-in-lake/