The Scoop on Poop
We all do it. Dogs, cows, humans - we all produce
And while it is a natural process, if that waste
gets into our water, the affects can be detrimental.
Several streams in the Etowah Watershed are listed
on the Georgia List of Impaired Streams because
they have too much fecal coliform bacteria, which
comes from animal and human fecal waste. Fecal
matter in the waterways can make humans sick.
How does it get into the water? Mostly from leaking
septic systems or stormwater overflows, and animal
farming areas. When septic systems fail or sewage
lines break, the stuff they were designed to catch
leaks out, either soaking into the ground water
or bubbling up in a lawn and overflowing to a nearby
stream and/or stormwater system.
Another way, fecal bacteria gets in the water
is through improper handling of cow manure and
chicken litter. When the chickens leave the chicken
house, all their waste is removed before the next
tenants move in. Some farmers sell this litter
to be used as fertilizer and others store it on
site. If not stored in a covered area, or if overly
applied to fields, chicken litter can be washed
into streams or rivers when it rains, adding to
the fecal coliform problem.
Cow manure finds its way into water either directly
or indirectly. Cows that have access to streams
sometimes use them as toilets as well as drinking
water. In addition, muddy, churned up pastures,
also called heavy use areas, become sources of
contamination when the mud runs into waterways.
So, what to do?
For farmers, there are a number of programs designed
to help with waste storage or pasture repair. The
Upper Etowah River Alliance, uses Federal 319 Grant
money to help chicken farmers build stackhouses
to store chicken litter, or assist cattle farmers
with repairs to muddy, heavy use areas in their
pastures. Many counties also have grant money available
to help. Check with the Cooperative Extension Office
or county agriculture agent in your county to see
it they have money available to help defray the
So, what can everyday citizens do? Following are
some suggestions how you can reduce the amount
of fecal waste getting into our beautiful waterways:
- Clean up pet waste in your yard.
- Have your septic tank pumped out every 3-5
years and fix leaks immediately.
- Report any sewage leaks immediately
Together, we can all reduce pollution!