The Clinton Conservation District coordinated the sampling, as it continues to implement the Upper Maple River Watershed Management Plan. The Maple, as well as other rivers in mid- Michigan, have been shown in recent years to have high levels of bacteria that raise concerns for swimmers and boaters.
“The dogs confirmed that human waste was present throughout the Maple River,” said John Switzer, executive director of the Clinton Conservation District. “These results will be used to focus our educational efforts and continue our partnership with community members to ultimately reduce pollution and protect public health.”
While the dogs can detect the presence or absence of human sewage and distinguish it from bacteria sources like livestock and wildlife, they cannot gauge whether bacteria levels are above or below state standards. Since the canine sampling in August the Clinton Conservation District has setup 10 long-term E. coli and DNA monitoring stations throughout the Maple River region. Two water sampling events took place in 2015 and initial results indicate high levels of E. coli. Four more rounds of water sampling are scheduled to take place in 2016.
Similar sampling was completed earlier this summer in the Flat River in Kent and Montcalm Counties. In each of those counties, the dogs alerted to the presence of human sewage in more than half of the samples collected.
Human waste can enter the environment from failing septic systems and direct discharges when homeowners bypass treatments systems and send their sewage directly to the rivers. Homeowners with septic systems are encouraged to have their septic systems inspected and serviced every three to five years to ensure they continue to treat sewage effectively. More information about septic system maintenance is available through the county health department.