The Water Quality Unit is in charge of finding and stopping surface water pollution sources. This is done through regular sampling and responding to pollution reports. But some pollution sources are hard to find. This is especially true if the pollution is coming from many different places and not just one source. One example of this is fecal coliform bacteria that can be found in sewage. It can pollute water when it leaks from pipes or septic tanks.
In November of 2020, the Water Quality Unit hired a human and dog team from Environmental Canine Services to help locate the sources of fecal coliform bacteria in Northeast Creek.
Canine source tracking uses a dog’s strong sense of smell to track pollution. They are trained to signal when they smell sewage in the drainage system. The dogs have been used to find sewage discharges in many U.S. cities. Studies have shown that the dogs can detect sewage where normal methods cannot.
Water Quality Unit staff, Remi the dog, and her handler Karen looked for sewage pollution in the Northeast Creek watershed. The group went to a total of 94 locations. Remi signaled that there was sewage at 36 spots. Two possible pollution sources were identified by human screening. Lab samples were taken at sites where Remi alerted to confirm that there was sewage present. Water Quality staff will inspect these locations to see if they really are sources of fecal coliform pollution.