It’s a Poopy Job

October 8, 2008 at 3:39 am Leave a comment

But somebody has to do it.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Sable’s job stinks, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

The German shepherd mix is a sewage-sniffing dog. He works out of Lansing for Tetra Tech, an environmental engineering and consulting business.

Scott Reynolds, a former law enforcement K-9 officer, has trained the dog to sniff out the scent of human sewage and surfactants, some materials used in household detergents.

Reynolds uses Sable to detect illicit and failing septic connections that flow from homes into rivers and streams.

Illicit sewage discharges include raw sewage discharges, failing septic systems and the connection of sanitary sewer discharges to storm drains or open waterways.  These discharges have a large adverse impact on surface and groundwater quality.  Not only are the bacteria and viruses in these discharges are harmful to humans, animals and aquatic habitats; but excess nitrogen and phosphorus from the untreated waste can lead to excessive aquatic plant growth that depletes the dissolved oxygen needed by fish and other aquatic species.  These discharges may also contain other contaminants like paints, solvents, cleaning products, motor oil and antifreeze that also adversely impact surface water and groundwater.

Sable’s job is an important one.  Illicit sewage discharges pose a significant threat to water quality in many parts of the country.  He provides an accurate, energy-efficient way to detect potential discharges.

The dog wears a fluorescent green vest when he’s working, identifying him as a “Sewage Sniffing K-9,” part of Tetra Tech’s “Illicit Discharge Detection Unit.”

So far, Sable is 87 percent accurate, based on his barks and the results of about 200 lab samples, his handler says.

The dog is trained to bark at human sewage and ignore animal feces, and is best at detecting subtle scents that people don’t notice, Reynolds said.

Reynolds also wisely takes precautions to maintain Sable’s health:

Reynolds stressed that he cares about his dog’s health and has taken steps to make sure Sable isn’t adversely affected by his job.

He said he’s consulted with veterinarians, has blood work done regularly and gives the dog a bath at least once a day.

“He lives with me, so that’s important,” Reynolds said.

Entry filed under: dogs, science. Tags: , .

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