Dog sniffs out sources of bacteria warnings at Seacoast beaches
NORTH HAMPTON — A dog trained to sniff out human waste found some local sources of bacteria at beaches in North Hampton and Rye on Wednesday.
Logan, a collie mix from Environmental Canine Services LLC of Michigan, sniffed around the outlet of Little River at North Hampton State Beach and the outlet of Parsons Creek in Rye.
Logan helped local officials and environmental scientists pinpoint the fish houses along Ocean Boulevard as a potential source of human bacteria contaminating the water near the state beach. Logan, who is trained to sit when he detects human waste, identified multiple contaminated areas around the fish houses, which are currently used as summer cottages.
Logan also positively identified the outlet of Little River into the ocean as containing bacteria from human waste. That result was not surprising, said Emily DiFranco, project manager with Portsmouth-based FB Environmental.
The state Department of Environmental Services has issued multiple advisories for North Hampton State Beach this summer, declaring the water unsuitable for wading or swimming. DiFranco said officials suspect septic system failures upriver are one cause of the problem.
The state has declared Little River impaired, requiring the town to take action on the bacteria problem. Officials took bucket samples from several upstream areas on Wednesday, and used Logan’s nose to identify which samples were contaminated. Those samples will go to a lab for additional testing.
Chris Ganotis, North Hampton’s Conservation Commission chairman, said Logan’s work saved weeks or more of time that would otherwise be spent trying to identify the “hot spots” for contamination along the river.
He said officials suspected the fish houses as a possible source of contamination, since they rely only on dry wells and a common holding tank for septic waste. It is unknown whether the holding tank is pumped regularly, he said.
Ganotis said the environmental monitoring work is important for the health of the river, as well as dealing with beach advisories, which have become more common in recent years.
“It’s kind of like Michelangelo doing the statue of David,” he said. “One chip at a time.”
Like Little River, Parsons Creek is similarly impaired, requiring local action to improve water quality. Logan was brought to Parsons Creek’s outlet across from Petey’s Summertime Seafood, and again found human bacteria in the water draining out at Wallis Beach.
“We’re trying to clean up Parsons Creek so it’s no longer Stinky Creek,” said town Planning Administrator Kim Reed.
Logan also found areas of bacteria contamination along a stone wall at the far end of the beach. It appeared that water was seeping through cracks in the wall from septic systems belonging to homes on Concord Point Road.
One homeowner told officials that a drain pipe Logan identified as a source of bacteria was a storm water drain. Reed said the town would not know why bacteria is present there until it launches an investigation.
“Hopefully, they’ll work with us,” she said of the nearby residents.
Logan also helped officials identify areas where their work has improved bacteria problems. They brought the sewage-sniffing dogs to Kittery, Maine, on Wednesday, and found the conditions there had vastly improved since an old outhouse was removed at Fort Foster.
“Fort Foster was really bad last year,” DiFranco said. “This year, the dogs didn’t hit on anything.”
~ Courtesy of Seacoast Online