Pet Waste and Water Quality
It may not seem like a “big deal” to most people,
but the accumulated effect of pet waste in urban areas can have
a significant impact on local water resources. In fact, U. S. EPA
representatives recently indicated that pet waste and goose droppings
being carried by stormwater may be contributing factors to Lake
Michigan beach closings. Individuals may not be able to resolve
much of the goose problem or runoff on a large scale, but pet owners
have the major responsibility to reduce any problems with pet waste.
Properly disposing of pet waste may seem like a small issue, but
it is a good reminder that we all live in watersheds and what one
person does can impact the whole watershed and everyone downstream.
Pollutants from improperly disposed pet waste can be washed into
storm sewers by rain or melting snow. Storm sewers may drain directly
into lakes and streams. When pet waste is washed into lakes or
streams the waste decays, which uses up oxygen and sometimes releases
ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia combined with warm temperatures
can kill fish. Pet waste also contains nutrients that encourage
weed and algae growth.
Perhaps most important, pet waste carries
diseases, which can make water unsafe for swimming or drinking.
The job of cleaning up after
a pet can be as simple as taking a plastic bag and/or scooper along
on walks. Many communities have “pooper scooper” laws
that govern pet waste cleanup.
There is no perfect solution to
disposing of the waste after it is picked up. But, University of
Wisconsin Extension water quality
specialists indicate there are several better choices than allowing
it to wash into water resources, including flushing it down the
toilet, burying it or disposing of it in a home digester. Don’t
try to flush debris such as cat litter. Cat feces may be scooped
out and flushed down the toilet, but used litter should be put
in a securely closed bag in the trash, but check local ordinances
first since putting pet waste in the trash is against the law in
Finally, don’t add pet waste to your compost
pile. The pile won’t get hot enough to kill disease organisms
in pet waste.
Further information is available from University
of Illinois and University of Wisconsin websites at http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/lcr/pdf/LGIEN2000-0007.pdf .
August/September 2004: Pet
Waste and Water Quality | Diseases and
Insects of Shrubs and Small Trees
| Fall Garden Wrap-Up | Managing
Thatch in Home Lawns