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Capitol Riverfront BID Asks Locals to Fight ‘Brown Plague’ of Dog Poop

by Tim Regan — April 22, 2016 at 3:00 pm 0

D.C. dog waste removal signA vice president of the Capitol Riverfront BID and a member of a local nonprofit are asking residents who walk their dogs in Navy Yard to scoop their pets’ poop.

Emily Franc at Anacostia Riverkeeper and Dan Melman, Capitol Riverfront BID’s Vice President of Parks and Public Realm, spoke their minds in an open letter to residents in the BID’s newsletter yesterday.

“We love our pets, and recognize the challenge in an urban environment of finding places for them to stretch their legs and do their ‘business,'” reads the letter. “However, skipping scooping up after your dogs is a significant problem. This unsanitary condition is often referred to as the ‘brown plague.’ Given that one gram of pet waste can harbor 23 million fecal coliform bacteria as well as parasites and roundworms, the “brown plague” label is apt.”

Dog poop left on the ground may wash into storm drains, which in turn may harms the water quality of local waterways, they argue. “The nutrient released from this waste directly harms aquatic vegetation, and reduces oxygen levels causing further detriment to fish and aquatic vegetation,” continues the letter.

Poop has long been a contentious issue among dog-havers in Capitol Hill. Neighbors famously fought over feces in the Hill East listserv two years ago. Then, when a serial “trespooper” plagued the neighborhood last year, local leaders considered putting up signs to deter them.

Read the full letter below:

Residents and their pets are spending more time outside along the Anacostia riverfront to enjoy the parks, fresh air, and river views.

We love our pets, and recognize the challenge in an urban environment of finding places for them to stretch their legs and do their “business.” However, skipping scooping up after your dogs is a significant problem. This unsanitary condition is often referred to as the “brown plague.” Given that one gram of pet waste can harbor 23 million fecal coliform bacteria as well as parasites and roundworms, the “brown plague” label is apt.

If you are a dog owner and think skipping on one pick up will not make a difference in the grand scheme of life, math and science tell a very different story. The EPA estimates that just a few days of waste from 100 dogs introduced into a twenty-square mile watershed can contribute enough contamination to close a public swimming area.

This waste left on the ground may be washed into storm drains during the next heavy rain and harms the water quality of our streams and rivers. Studies of water samples in urban watersheds like the Anacostia River watershed have verified that 20 to 30 percent of the bacteria found in the water is from dog waste. The nutrient released from this waste directly harms aquatic vegetation, and reduces oxygen levels causing further detriment to fish and aquatic vegetation.

Dog owners have a key role to play in creating a swimmable, fishable Anacostia River.

The Scoop on Poop:

* In our community, 23% of the approximately 3,500 residential units are dog households. This means in excess of 800 dogs.
* Only 60% of dog owners pick up after their pets (entire Chesapeake Bay).
* Men are less likely than women to scoop up.
* If every dog owner decided to skip the scoop, and not pick up after their pets on just one day: 800 dogs x 2 poos per day = 1,600 piles of poo, spaced 17″ apart (average stride length) equates to almost a half mile of stepping in poo with each step
* In the District of Columbia, the law states “no person owning, keeping or having custody of a dog in the District, except a Seeing Eye dog, shall allow or permit dog waste to remain in any public place.”

Dogs in the Parks

Canal Park is one of the green treasures of the community. The park has many signs requesting pet owners to restrain their pets from the planting beds, grassy areas, and particularly the kid-centric center block. Besides being considerate to those using the park, these requests are due to the special storm water capture system that exists in Canal Park. The storm water runoff captured from these areas, as well as from adjacent street storm drains, is filtered, treated, and stored to provide “clean” water for the plants irrigation, Canal Park Ice Rink in winter, and the dancing fountains and other water features in which children play every day of summer. When pet waste contaminates this water, extra chemicals are required to keep the water sanitary. Canal Park is LEED Gold Certified for its environmentally sustainable infrastructure, and keeping your dogs away from the requested areas keeps the park as “green” and safe as possible.

Yards Park, on the banks of the Anacostia River, is heavily utilized by families enjoying the water features, as well as events for the community. The fenced dog run provides a small off-leash area. The grassy areas, however, send water run-off directly into both the Canal Basin & Waterfall features, as well as the river. By ensuring that these areas stay clean, you are helping to make our community and its watershed a cleaner and healthier environment for all.

SOCIAL MEDIA CONTEST: Share this article, tagging @capitolriverfront and @AnacostiaRrkper, for the chance to win a free 2-hour boat tour led by Anacostia Riverkeeper. One post will be selected for the prize. Bonus points if you include a cute picture with your furry friend!

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