By Kadafi El-Kardah, Pennsylvania Environmental Council
Philadelphia is a beautiful city with so much to see, so much to offer, and so much to explore. The scenic trails are good for long walks. The shaded parks are good for hanging out with friends and family. The creeks and rivers are good for recreation and make the perfect backdrop. Just like most Philadelphians, those are probably a few things you enjoy. Philadelphia offers such a unique urban experience and with the abundance of nature, there is no other city quite like it!
While the city is beautiful, there is a problem that continues to disrupt the urge to walk the trails, hangout in parks, enjoy the water, and even walk down the street. That problem is Poop, dog poop that is. Have you ever walked around the streets and noticed the stained pavements, foul smell, and mush on the bottom of your shoes? I HAVE and you probably have too!
Dog waste does not only affect the look of our neighborhoods, but it interrupts nature in ways you can’t even imagine. Unlike most problems in life, dog waste influences every living thing no matter of age or location. It could affect the plants, the animals, and even human beings. How does dog waste impact our community? Well, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers dog poop an environmental hazard and one of the major sources of water pollution in an urban area. When left on the ground, it breaks down and washes into the water supply, polluting the Schuylkill and Delaware River, the sources of our drinking water.
Pet waste carries a number of bacteria, parasites and other diseases that can be detrimental to our health and the health of most living creatures. It releases nutrients that cause excessive algae growth and deplete the dissolved oxygen levels in the water. Dog waste is one of the reasons why the creeks and rivers sometimes appear murky. It makes the water unusable for boating, fishing, and other recreational activities we enjoy.
It’s quite disturbing that several studies have found that about 40% of American dog owners don’t pick up after their dog. That’s almost half the dog owner population! Can you imagine how that number would change as our population continues to increase and there are more dog owners? If we want to protect our water, it’s time for dog owners to be more responsible and clean up after their pets.
Here’s what dog owners can do:
- Clean it up: Take a bag with you when going for dog walks. You don’t need a special pet waste bag. In fact, a shopping bag would work just fine! Turn the bag inside out over your hand and use it as a glove to pick up the waste.
- Dispose of it properly: Flush the pet waste down the toilet. When flushing the waste, make sure to dump it from the bag. Flushing down the toilet ensures that it will reach a sewage treatment plant. Please do not dispose of dog waste into a storm drain. Storm drains lead to our bodies of water, the creeks and rivers most of us enjoy. Tossing it down the storm drain can lead to clogs or the degradation of our water. Sometimes flushing down the toilet is not an option, so if that’s the case, dispose of your dog’s waste into your trash bin. Please do not recycle pet waste. It will contaminate the recyclable items in your bin. Littering is never an option, so please do not litter by throwing your bags into the woods or into the bushes.
Cleaning up after your pet is important to the health of the people and all the living things in the city. Let’s reverse this cycle of disruption and keep our watershed healthy by doing our job as citizens and responsible dog owners.
About the Author: Kadafi El-Kardah is the community engagement specialist at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC). PEC protects and restores the natural and built environments through innovation, collaboration, education, and advocacy. Through a partnership with the Philadelphia Water Department, PEC is raising awareness of the effects of water pollution via stormwater runoff. For more information, visit their stormwater page at https://pecpa.org/program/stormwater-education