Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

August 24, 2013

Dog Sniffs Out Human Pollution

TRAVERSE CITY – Sable, a sewage-sniffing dog, came back to work last week in Grand Traverse County to help look for leaking septic tanks and possible illegal sewer connections in storm drains and culverts.

The German shepherd, handler Scott Reynolds and Watershed Center staffer Maureen McManus walked the entire east shoreline of Old Mission Peninsula for the first three days of the week and started along the west shore Thursday. Sable barks when his nose discovers human-sourced sewage or detergents.

Thee trio is part of a five-year program to improve water quality on area beaches.

During the recent checks, Sable found a few “areas of interest,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds and McManus made notes and recorded GPS locations. The Grand Traverse County Health Department will do follow-up and determine sources of the odors. Sable last came to Traverse City in 2010 and 2011 to sniff the city’s entire storm drain network for illicit sewer connections.

It’s been a good summer for the health department’s weekly water sampling and beach monitoring reports. E. coli bacteria counts in East and West bays have been low at most public beaches. The exception is Acme Bayside Park, which experienced a couple of temporary after-storm E. coli spikes on July 11 and Aug. 8.

Similar tests on three area inland lake public beaches registered even lower counts than bay beaches, said Tom Buss, environmental health director at the Grand Traverse County Health Department. This is the first year public beaches on three inland lakes have been included in the monitoring program. The beaches include Gilbert and Taylor parks on Long Lake, Twin Lakes County Park and Interlochen State Park on Duck Lake.

“It’s been a great summer for monitoring,” Buss said.

E. coli is a bacteria found in the digestive tracts of warm-blooded animals, including humans.

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