The dark task of picking up dog poop on Whidbey beaches is a bit brighter this month, thanks to the recent efforts of a community group.
Indeed, sweet, smelly change has arrived.
As a way of alleviating the number of dog waste bags abandoned along the shore, Island County Community Beach Litter Cleanup Program and FETCH! have teamed up to stock bright yellow bags at Double Bluff County Park. The hope is that more-noticeable bags will jog peoples’ memories so fewer will be left where they might be washed out into the sound. Dog feces is a major contributor to nearshore water contamination, which can spread viruses, bacteria, and parasites such as salmonella, e. coli, tapeworms, and parvovirus.
“It can really infiltrate the water and cause some real problems,” said Stinger Anderson, Community Litter Cleanup Program coordinator.
Anderson said that over the past year people have been good about bagging dog feces, but they’ve forgotten about disposing the bags at the end of their beach day. The green and brown bags tend to blend in and can be easy to miss, he said.
“So, we came up with the idea: What if the bags were brighter?” Anderson said.
The project was awarded a two-year grant of $31,500 from the Washington State Department of Ecology, which covers the cost of equipment, advertising, litter disposal, and employee funding. $7,500 of the grant goes toward education, which is used to cover the cost of making presentations to local schools and community organizations about beach litter and its effect on marine life.
Anderson isn’t at all frustrated with the situation. In fact, he’s more confident than anything that the project will catch on.
“I’m already encouraged; the people mean well at the beach,” Anderson said. “I’m absolutely sure that it will work. Everybody loved the idea and is committed.”
“People on the South End are so conscientious,” he added.
The new bags are not biodegradable, like the previous waste bags. That way, Anderson said, if the bags do wash out into the sound, the feces will stay in the bag.
There are regularly scheduled volunteer opportunities for beach litter pickup running through August and September. Bags, gloves, and other equipment are provided. Only adults, 18 or older, may participate in the organized beach cleanups. Anderson said that there is a regular group of about five to 10 volunteers, but he can always use more.
One of those active members is Jill Johnson, a Langley resident.
“I use the beach all the time so I want it clean,” Johnson said. “It’s a really good group of people to work with.”
Johnson suggested implementing waste containers placed along the beach as another effective method of cleaning the beach.
There is also the Purple Card program, which is used to track the disposal and cleanup of the beach. An individual or community group can request a purple card which will allow the disposal of beach litter at any Island County Solid Waste facility for free. It is required that a Beach Litter Disposal Tracking form be filled out online to report the details of the cleanup.
Contact Anderson at 360-240-5558 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on how to get involved.