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Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ December 2017

The Real Scoop on Pet Poop

By Carole Barth

We’ve all been there — just enjoying life, working in the yard or taking a stroll through the neighborhood when suddenly you’re confronted by a pile of pet waste.  It’s more than a disgusting mood-killer; it’s a public health problem and an environmental pollutant.  A single gram of dog waste contains 23 million bacteria; in fact, dog poop can be a reservoir for up to 65 diseases that can be transmitted to humans.  Recent research has even documented dog waste as a reservoir for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Even if we avoid direct contact with it, dog waste left on the ground is bad for you, bad for your pet, and bad for our streams.  Stormwater carries the pathogen-loaded waste into local streams and rivers.  Pet waste also adds to the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in streams.  Montgomery County’s stormwater (MS4) permit requires bacteria reductions in our watershed.

To help meet the “pollution diets” (or total maximum daily loads) for these watersheds, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is offering homeowner associations pet waste stations and a year’s free maintenance.  Since December 2014, about 14,077 pounds of waste (more than seven tons) has been collected through this program.  An HOA interested in the pet waste program can contact Ana Arriaza at 240.777.7778 or ana DOT arriaza AT montgomerycountymd DOT gov.

How big is the pet poop problem?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a typical dog (~40 lb.) excretes 274 pounds of waste per year.  Estimating from national statistics, there are 233,630 pet dogs in Montgomery County, producing 57,940,240 pounds of waste a year.  The good news is that 60% of dog owners pick up after their pets.  The bad news is that 40% do not, which means 23,176,096 pounds per year left on the ground.

What can you do?

Obviously, if you have a dog, pick up after it and dispose of the waste properly.  That means placing the bagged waste in the trash or flushing it (sans bag).  You can also help educate your fellow dog owners.  Many people still don’t know that dog poop is more than just a nuisance.  One approach is to download the poop fairy sign (shown at right).  For persistent problems, you can invoke the pooper scooper law.  Noncompliance can result in a $100 fine.  To report a pet owner not cleaning up pet waste, notify the Montgomery County Police, Animal Services Division, via the police non-emergency number, 301.279.8000.  If the incident is occurring on Park property, call Park Police at 301.949.8010.

What can our neighborhood do?

Some communities have invested in pet waste stations and/or waste removal services.  Civics and HOAs can also do a lot to inform and engage residents.  This can actually be fun.  You can organize a dog show, costume contest, or even a pet expo with local vendors and rescue organizations.

What’s being done elsewhere?  Some British communities are raising the problem’s visibility by spray-painting the poop day-glow colors or putting little flags in it with legends such as “flagged up… irresponsible dog owner woz ’ere.”  British waterways decided to highlight the problem of people who bag their dog’s waste only to toss the bag into the greenery by festooning a tree along a popular canal path with poop bags.

Other places are trying incentives rather than shocking visuals.  One community in Mexico has installed a pet waste station that generates free WiFi.  The more you put in the can, the more minutes you get.  New Taipei City in Taiwan reportedly halved its pet waste problem by giving a lottery ticket for every bag of poop.  As for disincentives, some HOAs and Apartment communities use DNA testing to identify (and punish) repeat offenders.

[Reprinted with permission from the November 2017 issue of the MCCF Civic Federation News.]   ■


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