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June 22, 2016: RE Sources for Sustainable Communities launches Squalicum Clean Water Project

posted Aug 18, 2016, 1:25 PM by Virginia Cleaveland
Project aims to educate citizens about the impact of dog poop in Squalicum Watershed; recent “Poop Patrol” flagged 100 poops left behind in dog park. 

The Clean Water program at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities recently launched the Squalicum Clean Water Project, a campaign that monitors water quality and educates citizens about how they can help prevent fecal coliform pollution in the Squalicum Watershed by picking up and properly disposing of dog poop.

Fecal coliform bacteria, an indicator of mammal or bird poop in the water, is found in many of Whatcom County's local creeks, lakes, and beaches. This bacteria indicates the likely presence of other disease-causing organisms including roundworms, E. coli, giardia, parvovirus, and more. When water is polluted with bacteria from poop, contact with the water or eating shellfish from the water can make you sick.

“Fecal coliform bacteria is a nationwide threat to water quality — it’s one of the top non-point pollution sources,” said Eleanor Hines, lead scientist with RE Sources for Sustainable Communities. “Our local testing over the last 18 months indicates that fecal coliform bacteria is consistently exceeding state water quality standards in the Squalicum Watershed. Focusing our education campaign on this non-point pollution source is a clear way to highlight the issue and encourage all citizens to improve their dog poop pickup practices.”

To reach out to dog owners who may not realize the harmful impact that their dog’s poop can have on the environment, RE Sources is hosting community events in parks and on trails this summer throughout the Squalicum Watershed.

“Poop Patrol” volunteers will be in local parks flagging dog poop piles left behind to help illustrate how widespread poor poop pickup practices are. “Tails on Trails” volunteers will visit parks and events to talk to community members and help them understand the importance and best practices of picking up, bagging, and putting dog poop in the trash — wherever they are.

Volunteers are still being recruited to help spread the word. Interested volunteers can email eleanorh@re-sources.org or call 360-733-8307 x213.

Upcoming Poop Patrol and Tails on Trails events include a Poop Patrol outing at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 25th at Cornwall Park, and a Tails on Trails event during the Bellingham Kids Traverse at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 26th, at Squalicum Park. Volunteers can also schedule their own Poop Patrol or Tails on Trails events by emailing eleanorh@re-sources.org.

During a recent Poop Patrol on Saturday, June 18th, at the off-leash dog park at Squalicum Park, volunteers flagged 100 abandoned piles of dog poop, illustrating the problem of poor pickup practices, and the threat of disease-causing bacteria running into our waterways. Photos from the event are at facebook.com/northsoundbaykeeper/.

“Whatcom County dogs generate 30,000 pounds of poop every day, and one dog’s poop carries enough bacteria and viruses to pose a health risk to humans and pets,” said Hines. “The Squalicum Clean Water Project is an opportunity to raise awareness about the threat of fecal coliform bacteria and how dog owners can protect their families, kids, pets, and neighbors downstream.”

The Squalicum Clean Water Project was created in collaboration with the City of Bellingham’s We Scoop campaign, launched in 2015 to connect with neighborhoods in the lower Squalicum Watershed — Columbia, Cornwall Park, and Birchwood.

RE Sources’ Squalicum Clean Water Project is expanding on the City’s program and connecting with neighborhoods in the upper watershed — Cordata, Meridian, King Mountain, Irongate, and Barkley.

Although the project is aimed at neighborhoods in the Squalicum Watershed, all Whatcom County residents are invited to participate, including people who don’t own dogs. Citizens interested in helping to address the problem of fecal coliform pollution can sign the “Poop Pledge” and sign up to volunteer online at re-sources.org/pooppledge.

Media Contact: Eleanor Hines, Lead Scientist, eleanorh@re-sources.org, 360-733-8307 x213
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