Environmental Company Training Rescue Dogs to Sniff Out Human Fecal Pollution

November 3, 2016

german shepherdSpecially trained dogs are helping keep humans across the country safe from water pollution by sniffing out human fecal bacteria in broken sewer pipes, leaking septic tanks, and illegal sewage discharges.

Just as government agencies use canines to detect drugs or explosives, one company is training rescued dogs to sniff out human feces.

“I could make a lot of jokes about what kind of job this is, but I won’t,” said Scott Reynolds, who runs the Maine-based company Environmental Canine Services. “They alert us to the presence of human-specific bacteria, E. coli, poop, whatever you want to call it.”

The truth is human fecal pollution is no joke. It poses serious health risks, including intestinal problems, hepatitis, respiratory infections, and more.

As much as 80% of water pollution is caused by throwing garbage — including human waste — onto open ground and into water bodies. This improper waste disposal leads to all sorts of environmental and health issues. In fact, every year, one in six Americans gets sick from consuming contaminated foods or beverages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So far, the company has used their dogs to analyze the conditions in 15 states, including California, Michigan, Washington, New Jersey, and Oregon. Recently, in Skagit County, Washington, the dogs helped public works authorities identify 15 to 20 leaking septic tanks that were contaminating waterways.

The director of the Conservation Fund in Sawyer, Michigan, Peg Kohring, has hired the company three times over the past five years to track down pollution making its way into Lake Michigan.

“We had quite a few beach closings because of high E. coli, and we did extensive water testing, but you don’t know exactly where the problem is,” said Kohring. “With the dogs we’re able to go right to the source. They found a homeowner whose house was only half connected to the septic system; the other half was washing directly out into a creek. We found 30 homeowners who had no idea where their sewage was going.”

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