“The data is crystal clear,” said Michael Pascucilla of East Shore Health Department. “I have rarely seen such a clear signal in the data,” concurred Brown graduate student biologist Sarah Esenther, who has been working on the water quality study.
The primary driver of the elevated bacteria counts that pollute our water is dog waste.
Thanks to the efforts of our own citizen scientist Ann Davis, the East Shore Health Department, Sarah Esenther, other local volunteers, and generous financial support from the Civic Association of Short Beach, we now know what causes the high levels bacterial pollution in our water.
The evidence and scientific data were presented to a standing-room only crowd at Orchard House last night (12/6/2023). Discussion ensued about how to respond.
To prevent bacteria from dog waste from contaminating our water, we as a community need to change our behavior. The Civic Association will take important collective measures, including putting “No Dog Waste” signs on all garbage cans near the water, replacing the open green garbage cans with water-tight containers, and providing signage, palm cards, and other elements of a public information campaign. Residents also expressed interest in storm drain art and in adding bio swales to help capture run-off. People who want to help organize these efforts should attend the next meeting of the Civic Association on Monday December 11 at 7 pm at the Short Beach Union Church.
Those of us who are dog owners can start responding to this problem today. We should stop putting our baggies of dog poop in the green garbage cans that sit directly above Johnson’s Beach and the other local beaches. We should instead put the baggies in our pockets, bring them back to our homes, and store them (outside!) until we can put them out in the big green trash containers that the town takes away each week. If everyone does that, the presence of pollution in our water will decrease.
We should inform our neighbors and encourage everyone to participate in this change of behavior to improve our quality of life.
I’m a dog owner – many of you will recognize our two ridiculous and beloved corgis, Indiana and Blue – and an every day swimmer in the Sound during the warm half of the year. About five years or so ago, I happened to look inside the green garbage can on the corner of Johnson’s Beach, which was full of dog poop bags and water. That’s when I decided to stop adding to the bacterial tea, and started bringing my dogs’ bags up to my house, from where they go out with the town garbage on Monday mornings. It’s not easy to change habits, and not that much fun to carry dog bags in your pocket – but it’s possible. We will need to remind each other, gently educate our neighbors and visitors, and pay attention as we make these changes.
It will be worth it to have cleaner water in our beloved Shoreline.