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Waterloo's dog poop dilemma: Addressing the growing environmental concern

Region offered $875K worth of in-ground waste stations for free to promote ‘environmental win’

Bill Jackson, Waterloo Chronicle

Monday, March 1, 2021

Four years ago the City of Waterloo piloted a program for dog waste stations with in-ground containers in local parks.


It was a resounding success that led to even more of the stations being implemented across the city (there are now 14 in total) as well as in numerous municipalities across Ontario.


But despite rave review from dog owners, local councils and parks staff, rollout has been “slow and painful,” according to Steven Cseresnyesi, vice president of Sutera In-Ground, which is based in Waterloo. The company has developed and implemented the underground containment and processing system specifically for dog waste, which is then turned into energy.

Municipal budgets might be tight these days.


“But not all poop is created equal,” said Cseresnyesi, who noted studies that have shown as much as 30 per cent of all bacteria in urban watersheds can be traced back to dog feces.


A new study has now linked its harmful effects in fish found in the Grand River.


Due to dogs’ stomach enzymes and diets, their waste is different from that of wild animals, containing much higher concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus.


About 8.2 million dogs in Canada produce more than one million tonnes of feces annually.


“Based on the (national pickup rate) at 60 per cent, 400,000 tonnes becomes land and moraine pollution in Canada,” Cseresnyesi said.


That which is landfilled emits methane which contributes to climate change. It also gets messed up with recyclables that are redirected to landfill.


Since 2014, Cseresnyesi said the dog population has grown four times faster than the human population in urban areas such as Waterloo region, where an estimated 95,000 dogs create 12,000 tonnes of waste annually.


Some new developments are being outfitted with the waste stations, but when the snow melts, many trails and parks will still be found littered with poop.

“It’s disgusting,” according to resident Sandra Nader, who said dozens of poop bags accumulate at the end of the Geo-Time Trail in Waterloo, where metal waste bins are ignored.


Cseresnyesi said that while most people do dispose of their dog waste, it’s up to government to provide them with a way to do it properly.


If Waterloo region disposed of 60 per cent of dog poop using Sutera, it could save 24 million cubic feet of unburned methane or 2,400 passenger car emissions, Cseresnyesi contends.


Sutera has offered to install up to 250 dog waste stations across Waterloo region, valued at $875,000, for free, collecting only the monthly service fee of $145/month per container.


The program would cost the region $435,000 annually, which is less than half of one per cent of the region's 2019 waste management budget ($66.3 million), said Cseresnyesi, who questions whether governments spending the same amount or more on bike lanes see the same environmental gains.


In what’s being touted as the first-ever scientific study on the impact of canine feces on urban fish populations, surviving creek chub from the Grand River watershed showed “reduced foraging efficiency, decreased reproductive development and increased vulnerability to predators.”


The study commissioned by Sutera, a division of Melloul-Blamey Ltd., was completed over two years by Kitchener-based Biotactic Fisheries Research and Monitoring and peer reviewed before appearing in the Journal of Fish Biology.


Cseresnyesi hopes it will add credence to concerns and facilitate funding from governments to help deal with dog poop.


For every 1,000 tonnes of dog poop diverted, seven full-time jobs are created.

But the Waterloo-based company wants governments to invest more, not just to help its bottom dollar, but for the environmental win that's possible.


Unlike things like roads and single-use plastics, there’s no need to drastically alter design or supply chain packaging.


“It’s dog butt to container,” Cseresnyesi said.


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: A local company highlighted findings of a study analyzing the effects of dog poop on creek chub. The Chronicle followed up to learn what dog feces is doing to our environment.

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