Hampton town officials recently made a plea to dog owners to stop dumping their pets’ waste into the town’s drainage catch basins.
It’s remarkable that such a plea even had to be made as one of the main rules of being a responsible dog owner is to clean up after your pet. That includes properly disposing of your pet's waste.
Dumping waste in a catch basin because it’s easier than walking to a trash receptacle goes beyond being irresponsible. The practice could lead to contamination of public waters and costly fines that all taxpayers will have to bear.
Town Manager Fred Welch said bags of dog waste have been discovered in at least three basins throughout town, located near Westridge Drive, Cole Street and Falcone Circle.
And we are not just talking about a couple of bags.
One basin was discovered to have 50 bags of dog waste inside it at once, according to Hampton Deputy Public Works Director Jennifer Hale.
In addition to personally finding the waste in the basins, she said, her department has received reports from residents who have spotted dog owners dumping bags of waste into the basins. Dog owners have also been spotted picking the waste up with scoopers and dropping it into the basins.
“People disposing of animal waste in our drains has become a serious problem,” said Hale.
The problem is that any pet waste dumped into catch basins will be discharged untreated to the closest stream, pond, lake, wetland or river causing health and environmental problems.
Pet waste can carry viruses and bacteria that are extremely harmful to humans. It also contains nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients that accelerate growth of damaging algaes and aquatic weeds.
The basins in Hampton lead to waters that include the Hampton Harbor, where people fish and catch shellfish to eat.
You do not want dog waste in those waters.
Fecal contamination was a concern for Hampton earlier this year when state Department of Environmental Services officials discovered high levels in the Hampton Harbor.
While that turned out to be a bad sewer pipe and has since been fixed, we don't want to do anything to add to that.
In addition to the health and environmental concerns of illegally dumping dog waste, there is also the impact to the wallet.
Town Manager Fred Welch said the contamination could cost the town “thousands of dollars” in fines and cleaning requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency. He said those would be paid for with an increase in taxes.
“That’s a lot of money considering we have several hundred outfalls in town,” said Welch.
While Hampton officials are considering drafting a local ordinance prohibiting the dumping of animal waste in catch basins, hopefully it won’t be needed now that the issue has been aired publicly.
Since September is Responsible Dog Owner Month, owners should be reminded of what that entails. Please encourage your neighbors and other pet owners to be responsible. It’s not that hard and it's part of your responsibility as a good pet owner.