News Feature | September 16, 2016

In Michigan, Dogs Used To Locate Aging Sewer Lines

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

In many cities throughout the country, aging septic and sewage tanks can leak human waste and other unhealthy chemicals into streams and lakes.

This year alone, there have been 25 public beaches on Lake Michigan forced to close due to high bacteria levels, per WMUK.

But Michigan has a solution. A company founded in the state, Environmental Canine Services, uses dogs to locate the bacteria found in wastewater, according to WMUK.

Karen Reynolds founded Environmental Canine Services seven years ago with her husband, the report says.

Environmental Canine Services has six working dogs. This past summer, the company tracked wastewater in Berrien County, MI. Peg Kohring, Midwest director of The Conservation Fund, told WMUK that there have been ongoing problems at five beaches in the county.

“We’re finding that the beaches are closed and it’s because of human waste in the water. So we’re tracing back the drains trying to find where either there’s a failing septic system or maybe there’s a storm water drain and a sewer crossing,” Kohring said.

Reynolds said that regular water testing is still important, but the dogs can assist in directing scientists.

A few years ago, according to WMUK, the dogs helped locate 30 aged septic systems along the Galien River in New Buffalo. This past summer, Kohring said that her dogs were able to locate whole sewer lines that had been dissolved by sewer gas.

The dogs also helped discover that some sewer lift stations were leaking sewage into nearby creeks.

Reynolds added that they’re looking into having the dogs soon locate PCBs as well, though there would have to be enough outside interest in having them do so, WMUK reported. It also has to be safe for the dogs and their handlers.

"The goal is to make it a game for them where it is the most fun thing that they do. They always get a reward of a treat or a squeaky ball or whatever it is. So they love it,” Reynold told WMUK.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.