Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dog Waste and South Boston Beaches

Earlier this year I was asked to take part in an investigative study to identify whether or not dog waste could be responsible for elevated enterococcus bacteria levels at Pleasure Bay, Savin Hill, Malibu Beach and Tenean Beach.   Last year nineteen beach closures were attributed to elevated levels of this bacteria.  Since there are no sewage discharges into the Harbor due to the completion of South Boston's CSO project it was concluded that there were no point sources responsible for this event.  This meant that either the test were not accurate or that the sources of elevated enterococcus were the result of some event that either took place on the beaches or directly in the water.  Since there were no sewage discharges into the harbor that left only animal waste as the possible source.  Of the animals that are present at these beaches only two could generate enough waste to create conditions in which enterococcus bacteria could exceed the safety standard  104 cfu , birds and dogs.
However, previously reviewed research comparing the concentrations of enterococcus in bird and dog waste concluded that the concentration of this bacteria in dog waste was greater by more than twice the magnitude.  Therefore we concluded our preliminary research and decided to focus our onsite beach investigations towards dogs and whether or not their caretakers were demonstrating responsible waste management practices on South Boston beaches.
What we observed on these beaches in March ranged from neglectful to deplorable.  Most of the beaches were riddled with dog waste and 95% of the dogs observed were not on leash.  At Pleasure Bay alone our group counted twenty-eight instances of dog waste left on the beach. 
Ironically enough, this was the only location that had a dog waste bag dispenser (although it was empty).   All of the locations we investigated had clear signs posting beach ordinances for dog waste removal and leash laws.   We also noticed dog walkers in clear violation of these ordinances and at one point counted over thirty dogs running amuck at Victory Park.

While the source of the elevated bacteria levels resulting in beach closures may very well be from dogs, it is the caretakers unconscionable or deliberate lack of responsibility that enables this sequence events to occur.  Despite the severe 
disrespect for the beaches and the law we never saw any authoritative personnel enforcing the ordinances.
I am certain from these observations that most of you would agree with me when I say, more has to be done in order to ensure the quality of these beaches.  As we continue our research investigation I hope what we found this winter does not reflect the behaviors of dog owning beach patrons throughout the entirety of the year.  Having owned dogs myself, I am aware of what goes into taking care of them, but at no point does the amount of work give us an excuse avoid our responsibility to them or our community.  Every time one of us allows our dog to crap on public property without picking it up, that crap is both literally and figuratively crapping on all of us.  So unless you are training your dog to pick up after itself please be prepared and responsible to pick up after your pet.

Dennis Poole

Environmental Policy Intern 

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