The Problem with Poop
We all know that pet waste left unattended is just plain gross. But did you know that unscooped poop causes huge problems for waterways like rivers, lakes, and streams? The EPA classifies dog waste as non-point source pollution, along with herbicides and insecticides, oil, grease, and toxic chemicals. Not only is pet waste unsightly and smelly, but it contains an abundance of bacteria, parasites, worms, and more that wash into local waterways and pollute our natural resources. Pet waste can also make people, pets, and wildlife very sick by acting as a vector for disease transmission. It even attracts unwanted attention from pests.
E. coli and Other Dangers
One of the biggest risks associated with pet waste is E. coli bacteria. Dog poop can contain 23 million E. coli bacteria per gram of waste, and the average pile contains nearly 3 billion E. coli bacteria! Pet waste also hosts giardia, salmonella, parvo, worms, viruses, parasites, and more. These can cause fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and other unpleasant symptoms. Even after solids are washed away, these unwanted guests can stick around on the ground for years!
Waste in the Water
If left unattended, pet waste and the associated contaminants are picked up by stormwater when it rains. Stormwater (and the pollutants it picks up along the way) is washed down storm drains, where it travels untreated and unfiltered into Greenville’s waterways. In areas that lack storm drains, stormwater flows directly to nearby waterways.
These harmful entities aren’t the only trouble pet waste brings to waterways. Pet waste that decomposes in water is a quadruple threat. Decomposing waste releases excess nutrients into the water, which cause algal blooms (eutrophication). Algae blooms can be toxic to humans, pets, and wildlife as well as make recreation, such as boating, swimming, or fishing, dangerous for humans. Algae can also be harmful because it feeds on and depletes oxygen in the water, meaning there is less oxygen available for the aquatic species that depend on it. Oxygen is also consumed during the decomposition of pet waste, thus removing even more oxygen from the water. Decomposing waste also releases ammonia, which damages the health of the aquatic system.
What to do About Doggy Doo
- Grab it, bag it, trash it! Carry bags with you when you walk your dog or while you’re on poop patrol in your yard. Seal the waste in a bag, and throw it in the trash.
- Don’t like getting up close and personal? Use a pooper scooper for a more hands-off approach.
- Have a problem in your neighborhood or a public space? Pet Waste Stations may be the way to go. Take advantage of our Pet Waste Station Discount Program!
- Commercial pet waste removal services are available. That’s right – for a small fee, someone will come to your house and scoop the poop for you!
- Pet waste digesters and composters are available, so you can turn your pup’s “trash” into “treasure!” Visit Greenville County Animal Care at 328 Furman Hall Road to view a pet waste digester in action. Note: Pet waste digesters and composters are specially designed for pet waste. Never put pet waste in a regular compost pile. Click here for a guide to pet waste composting.
Still have questions? Click below for common misconceptions and frequently asked questions.
Frequently Asked Questions and Common Misconceptions
You may find yourself wondering…
- Isn’t it bad to put plastic bags full of poop in the landfill? Landfills are lined to prevent contaminants from leaching out into soil and groundwater. Plastic grocery bags make great pet waste bags, and it enables the bags to be repurposed. Biodegradable pet waste bags are also available for purchase.
- Why do I need to pick it up if it’s in my own yard or the woods behind my house? Even if you don’t live near a body of water, E. coli bacteria and other contaminants are still picked up by rain water and carried into local waterways. Everybody lives in a watershed, and every watershed drains into local waterways before eventually traveling to the ocean.
- Isn’t dog poop a natural fertilizer? No! A dog’s diet and gut composition are much different than those of manure producing animals, such as cows and chickens. The high levels of bacteria, parasites, worms, and other pests are unsafe to be used as fertilizer. Dog poop is also highly acidic, which means using dog poop as fertilizer will produce the exact opposite results than you had intended for your yard.
- What about wild animals? Dog poop contains 23 million bacteria per gram, which is far more than wild animals. The natural environment has evolved to handle wildlife that is naturally found in those areas but can only naturally support ~2 dogs per square mile. In urban areas, there are ~125 dogs per square mile. The accumulation of waste of all these dogs overloads and strains the natural system.
- Can I compost pet waste? Yes! Special pet waste digesters and composters are available. Pet waste should never be added to a regular compost pile. Pet waste must steadily reach temperatures of 165 degrees or more to kill any unwanted residents and eliminate the risk of making humans and animals sick. Traditional compost piles do not generally reach these temperatures.