Sniffing Out Pollutants: A Groundbreaking New Tactic For Contaminant Detection
What if you could track the source of contaminants in your stormwater quickly and easily, without relying solely on the painstaking and expensive process of lab analysis? A small but highly specialized outfit from Michigan provides this service for municipalities with its unique and groundbreaking methodology.
After doing jobs in California, Wisconsin, and the Great Lakes Region, the team of Logan and Sable recently brought their talents to the east coast for the first time. In Kittery, ME, they were contracted to detect contaminated stormwater flowing into a creek, while in Exeter, NH, they were asked to identify illicit human discharges in water samples containing E. coli. They successfully completed both assignments without the use of a lab or any special equipment. In fact, the only tools they needed were their noses.
Yes, Logan and Sable are dogs.
They are very special dogs, obviously, trained to sniff out raw sewage and detergents in stormwater. Logan sits when he detects the target contaminant, while Sable barks. Either way, the canine detection method has been validated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a viable means for meeting Phase II National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements.
Scott Reynolds, the dogs’ trainer, started with just Sable — a rescue dog — and now has five dogs in all. Reynolds also offers training to other dogs through his company, Environmental Canine Services, which he founded as a low-cost option for small municipalities and nonprofit organizations — especially relevant for today’s cash-strapped municipalities struggling with tight budgets.
Benefits Of Canine Detection
Travel and a week of work for dog and trainer may cost a municipality between $5,000 and $10,000. By comparison, DNA-based lab testing can exceed $100,000 — and the source point of contamination may remain undetermined.
Laboratory testing methods can also take days or weeks, while canine detection provides immediate feedback. The dogs can sniff out as many as 50 stormwater structures in six hours — providing savings on both water sampling and personnel.
Typically, the dogs are used to trace the scent of the offending bacteria to its upstream source, such as a leaky sewer line, faulty septic tank, or an improper pipe connection. From manholes to storm drains to creeks, the dogs are equally adept at detecting contaminants in enclosed systems or open-source channels.
Most importantly, the dogs are accurate. A pilot case study was conducted in Santa Barbara, CA, with funding provided by the Water Environment Research Federation (WERF), concluding that “canine scent tracking is a tool that should be expanded for use by researchers and stormwater managers.”
To see Logan and Sable in action, watch the clip below.
What do you think about the viability and the future of canine scent tracking? Do you agree that it should be expanded, and would you consider it for your municipality? Leave your comment below…