Video: Sewage-Sniffing Dogs on the Trail of Pathogens Pollution

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We all know that dogs possess a keen sense of smell. And stormwater professionals, coastal managers, and watershed protection groups need effective, easy, and low-cost methods to identify and locate sources of fecal contamination in storm drains that discharge to creeks and beaches. A new WERF research project brings the two together. Canine and Microbial Source Tracking in Santa Barbara, CA (U2R09), uses canine scent tracking, or sewage-sniffing dogs, to locate sources of human-waste contamination in storm drains.

Through the use of DNA-based techniques, previous research has shown that some storm drains are contaminated with human waste.Yet finding the precise locations where waste enters the storm drain network is challenging, due to a relatively high cost per sample and three-week turnaround time for results. The project brings together a team from academic research on microbial source tracking, private consulting on illicit discharge detection and elimination, and a municipality that conducts extensive research and voluntary efforts to locate and mitigate the contamination of recreational waters.

In this video clip, produced and provided courtesy of CityTV18 in Santa Barbara, Calif., WERF Principle Investigator Jill Murray from the City of Santa Barbara shows how sewage-sniffing dogs are helping city investigators find fecal contamination in storm drains.

June 23, 2011