In Dublin Bay, it is important for people to recognize that not only is serious dog stains on the beach, but it also affects real life.
Most people clean up their dogs, but not up to 10 dogs. I’m trying to get rid of my dog using an adaptation project and a Leave Only Paw Prints campaign and animation. Small changes can improve the beach and bathing water for everyone.
I want people to know the effects of dog poop. People are unaware. They think, “Oh, it’s a big beach, the tide will come and wash it away,” but that’s not how it works. The tide brings the poop closer to the shore, and our work shows that the most polluted are the shallow beaches of Dublin Bay.
The problem with Dublin Bay is that water is polluted and there are multiple sources of pollution. Our purpose is to identify the source. Animals or humans; And in the case of animals, which animal? The local government cannot do anything to fix things without knowing these things.
The Acclimatize project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and in collaboration with Aberystwyth University in Wales, is a large and ongoing study for us at UCD. In Ireland, we’re exploring Dublin Bay and working with three local governments: Dun Laoghairsdown, Fingal, Dublin City Council, EPA, and Irish Water.
Many people walk their dogs on the beach, so I wanted to find out how much pollution they caused. Water quality is measured by two types of bacteria. They are E. coli and enterococci.
In Europe, there is a bathing water directive, which defines quality as excellent, good, sufficient or bad. These classifications depend on the number of these two bacteria. If the level is too high, the bath water will be closed. This happens in Dublin Bay. In particular, the water is shallower, much of which is related to dog droppings.
Some of the work we do is a bit tricky, but essential. Dog feces contain far more of these bacteria than human feces. We know this because our lab, Niamh Martin and Jayne Stephens, measured bacteria per gram of dog droppings. They also calculate the average weight of dog droppings, then we walk along the lines of people, walking on the beach with GPS, marking dog droppings, on the beach (Sandymount, Portrane, Donabate). How much was processed in a day.
I found 2.5kg a day on one beach. It’s a pure dog poop. A little tired.
I was swimming in Dublin Bay as part of UCD’s dive club. In fact, the deeper waters in Dublin Bay have excellent water quality. All you have to worry about is near the coast.
These bacteria themselves are not dangerous. All humans and animals naturally have them. They matter when they are in large numbers, and you have to worry about near the coast.
There are also microbes that can potentially cause illness, some of which can cause blindness, and children are particularly vulnerable to it. There is a full range of nasty things that can be carried from a dog’s poop, and children rowing and playing with sand can get sick.
The person who drops the plastic bag of the dog’s poop is another source of concern because of the problem with the bag, but eventually it bursts and the poop is on the sand or in the water. In Portrain, one of our team noticed that a hollow concrete pillar erected as an erosion barrier was filled with plastic bags of dog droppings. So people had a hard time picking up the poop, but then left it there.
At Sandy Mount and Melion Strand, you can have 200 dogs a day. Our project is underway to assess the impact. So when we see all of us lined up in our hibis, we can see what we are doing.
See acclimatize.eu/dogs for more information on the UCD Acclimatize team and their research and results on how dog feces affect water quality.
Conversation with Sarah Caden