When the snow melts and flows into the streams and rivers, Pullman Stormwater Services largely affects the lives of Pullman residents.
“(Our goal is) to improve our local environment and quality of life by reducing pollution, maintaining and improving infrastructure, reducing impacts to the natural drainage system and increasing awareness on stormwater issues,” according to the Pullman Stormwater Services Web site.
One of these issues facing Pullman is the pollution due to fecal coliform bacteria found in dog poop left by negligent owners.
The program manager of Pullman Stormwater Services Rob Buchert explained the origins of the fecal coliform bacteria.
“Fecal coliform is a family of bacterias, Buchert said. “The nasties are like E. coli and other bacterias like that. All fecal coliform bacteria, both good and bad originate from the intestines of warm blooded animals.”
Buchert said this bacteria has three main sources — wildlife, humans and pets. While not much can be done to control Mother Nature doing its business, an impact can be made on the contribution due to ourselves and our pets.
“When we take our water samples down at the stream and we find that fecal coliform bacteria counts are high — higher than the state standard — then that’s an indication that there is too many inputs into the system to be healthy for humans… It is primarily a public health concern,” he said.
The state standards of water quality are set primarily for what Buchert described as “contact recreation” — which include activities such as swimming and scuba diving. These standards are set for Pullman’s local streams to protect those that may come into contact with, or possibly ingest, the water.
“What the state regulatory end of things and what the city’s program is trying to accomplish, to prevent, is those instances where we have mostly kids…and if they fall in or they are splashing around and swallow some water, we want to make sure we are doing the best job that we can to limit the risk of them getting sick,” Buchert said. “That’s the sum total, sum goal of what we are trying to achieve here with cleaning up our storm water, more specifically the fecal coliform bacteria that is in the stormwater.”
Eli Typhina, an environmental communication graduate student, created a survey for pet owners to gage strategies to combat this health hazard.
“I am studying ways that we can communicate about environmental issues to people so people will be in inclined to change their behavior to improve the environment,” Typhina said.
Along with being a student, Typhina is also the communication and education manager for Pullman Stormwater Services. She said she does her part to help create a healthier environment by developing educational campaigns to improve Pullman resident behavior.
“When I met with (the stormwater department) this fall, they had quite a few different things that they want to do to improve water quality in Pullman,” Typhina said. “Their top one was pet waste. It is something that a lot of people in the town can change.”
Typhina created the survey based on communication theories that provide Stormwater Services of ways to reduce the amount of water pollution due to fecal coliform bacteria.
The pet waste survey will not only lead to a solution to the fecal coliform problem, but also help Stormwater Services better understand their dog-owning audience. It is Typhina’s hope that the survey will pinpoint dog owners’ perception of poop, and also the language they use to discuss it, in order to fine-tune the wording of their campaign.
All dog owners are encouraged to go to surveymonkey.com/s/PullmanPetSurvey. This three-minute survey will close Sunday, Feb. 12 and will help Pullman Stormwater Services better understand how to get owners to scoop the poop.