Pooping pets pose pollution predicamentThis just in from the Washington Department of Ecology: Pet poop poses problems.

But wait a minute, we've got a whole pile of stuff to worry about regarding pollution: What's DOE doing worrying about piles of poop?

About 150 tons a day in Washington is what they are worrying about. And, they say all this pet waste can cause serious environmental harm unless it is properly controlled.

"In an area of 100,000 people, ... dogs generate about 2 1/2 tons of feces per day," said Ralph Svrjcek, a water-cleanup specialist for DOE. "That's almost 2 million pounds a year. That's a lot of bacteria."

Holy dog poop.

About half of all dog owners walk their dogs in public places, according to the press release, and less than half of them do not pick up after their pets.

So what's the big deal? Pet waste can be washed into storm sewers, which drain into rivers, lakes and the ocean. Once there, the waste can cause sick kids, "mucky algae," suffocate fish and is sometimes poisonous to you and me.

"It seems like such a small amount when it's just your dog, but it really does add up," Svrjcek said. "Many people don't realize how important it is to take care of their pet waste so it stays out of our lakes, rivers and streams."

Pet waste can make water unsafe for swimming or drinking. What about if your child dips her head underwater and gets a mouthful of bacteria-infused water? What if the waste gets into shellfish beds?

Illnesses that can be caused by bacteria and parasites from pet waste include diarrhea, fever, muscle aches, headaches, vomiting, roundworms and toxoplasmosis. Other pets can get sick, too.

OK, so what can we do?

"Don't just throw your dog's business over the fence," Svrjcek warned. "Yes, it will biodegrade eventually, but meanwhile it can cause problems for the rest of us."

Take along a plastic bag during your walks; gather up the poop and pop it into the nearest trash can.

Double bag the pet waste from home so your sanitation worker can handle it safely.

Most wastewater treatment plants allow pet waste to be flushed down the toilet (no cat litter, please).

Those of us with septic systems should bury the waste in the yard, at least six inches deep, away from vegetable gardens or water sources.

We live in a beautiful place; and there's not much that's more unsightly than a mound of malodorous brown stuff in the middle of your path. And, who among us hasn't been watching the scenery instead of our steps and walked right into it?

Take the time to pick it up. It's a big deal.

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