Canines for Clean Water

Did you know that by simply cleaning up your pet’s feces you can help keep our waterways clean from bacterial outbreaks and keep algal blooms at bay? Pet waste is a serious water quality and public health issue anywhere you go. In the Wilmington area, stormwater runoff washes bacteria, parasites, viruses, and nutrients from pet waste directly into our river and ocean. That is because our storm drains and ditches do not go to a wastewater treatment plant, but flow untreated directly into the Cape Fear River or the Atlantic Ocean by way of our local streams and creeks! The pathogens that stormwater picks up can cause diseases or infections in humans (such as salmonella, e. coli, giardia, and toxoplasmosis) and lead to recreational swimming advisories and shellfish bed closures. The nutrients in pet waste impair aquatic habitats by causing a chain reaction of events starting with toxic algal blooms. The aquatic weeds and algae grow out of control because of the added nutrients, which then in turn lowers the dissolved oxygen in the water. Low dissolved oxygen causes fish kills, which makes the water unsuitable for swimming, fishing, shellfishing or drinking.

You can make a difference! Sign the Canines for Clean Water pledge and vow to always pick up after your pet and dispose of the waste properly. How do you do that? Always clean up after your pets immediately. In the City of Wilmington and the Towns of Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, it is the law! There are ordinances in place that you must follow on public properties; fines vary, but all ordinances require pet owners on public lands to:

– Carry a clean-up device (i.e. bag, scooper) at all times.

– Show the clean-up device to a Code Enforcement Official, if requested.

– Bag and dispose of pet waste in a closed trash receptacle or refuse container.

– Do not flush pet waste down the toilet

A strong pet waste ordinance encourages citizens to be responsible for cleaning up their animal’s waste in order to keep our waterways clean and safeguard public health. Ordinance or not, we hope every pet owner will do their part in being good stewards of our environment and water resources. You can sign the Canines for Clean Water Pledge at a pet event near you. Check out these web sites for more details:

About the Author: Amy Long is the Education Coordinator with the New Hanover Soil & Water Conservation District.

*Photos courtesy City of Wilmington Stormwater Services