Volunteers flag poop pollution in Squalicum Watershed

October 6, 2016

Did you know Whatcom County dogs generate 30,000 pounds of poop every day? That’s the same weight as THREE African elephants!

One dog’s poop carries enough fecal coliform bacteria to pose a health risk to humans and pets. When it rains, the bacteria runs off into drains and ditches and travels for miles to nearby creeks, lakes, and beaches. Fecal coliform indicates the likely presence of other disease-causing organisms, including roundworms, E. coli, and more.

This fall, the Clean Water program at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities wrapped up the Squalicum Clean Water Project, a campaign educating community members about how they can help prevent fecal coliform pollution in the Squalicum Watershed by picking up and properly disposing of dog poop. In all, we hosted 10 Poop Patrol events that flagged more than 700 piles of dog poop.

Nearly 200 people in Bellingham and Whatcom County signed the Poop Pledge, promising to always pick up, bag, and throw away their dog’s poop, whether in parks, on trails, or at home. By taking the pledge, each participant did their own small part to help keep our beaches and parks safe to play in — from their own backyards.

In July and August, we hosted 10 Poop Patrol events at four parks in the Squalicum Watershed: Cornwall Park, Little Squalicum Park, Squalicum Dog Park, and Broadway Park. We flagged more than 700 PILES of dog poop during these Poop Patrol events. We used the flags to illustrate the widespread problem of poor poop pickup practices, and as a conversation starter to educate dog owners who may not realize the harmful impact of their dog’s poop on the environment.

Poop Patrols highlighted a staggering problem: Squalicum Dog Park was filled with over 100 piles of dog poop that had not been picked up, and Little Squalicum Park was filled with 150 piles of poop — just in one day!

These huge amounts of dog poop left in our parks are contaminating our waters. It reinforces the need for community projects like the Squalicum Clean Water Project: We all need to educate each other about the threat of fecal coliform bacteria and the proper ways to dispose of dog poop.

“Our hope is that as more dog owners in our community follow proper dog poop pickup practices, the Department of Ecology will be able to lift the permanent water quality advisory at Squalicum Beach due to elevated bacteria levels in the water. There are many homes with dogs in the Squalicum Watershed, and every pet owner can help be part of the solution to keep our children and our pets healthy, and our waterways clean,” said Eleanor Hines, lead scientist at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities and project manager for the Squalicum Clean Water Project.

Just remember: Veterinarians, garbage collectors, and health professionals all agree: The trash is the safest way to dispose of your dog’s poop. 

Thanks to our 26 dedicated volunteers — including neighborhood residents and volunteers from LDS Young Single AdultsTails-a-Wagging, and Whatcom Pet Care Network — for participating in the Squalicum Clean Water Project.

Learn more about the Squalicum Clean Water Project or contact Eleanor Hines at EleanorH@re-sources.org.

View Poop Patrol photos on Facebook: facebook.com/northsoundbaykeeper.