Animal waste from pets, wildlife and livestock are a significant source of water pollution in some areas of New Jersey. Animal waste contains high concentrations of nutrients as well as pathogens and bacteria. Animal waste is not always a problem; it can be an excellent fertilizer when properly applied. Farmers and gardeners often apply composted horse and cow manure to their land to improve plant growth. However, when untreated animal waste enters waterways in large quantities it can cause two types of problems. One type is associated with its high nutrient content. The other relates to the pathogens and bacteria it contains.
A number of water-borne diseases including tuberculosis and salmonella can be transmitted to humans by microorganisms in animal feces. Bacteria levels in stormwater runoff appear to be greater in urban and suburban areas than in commercial or industrial zones. One cause may be the high concentration of pets or waterfowl, such as Canada geese, associated with residential areas. Frequently, pets are walked along roadways or near waterways. From such locations, the next rainstorm will quickly flush the animal wastes into the nearest storm sewer, lake or stream. In some communities, this has resulted in the need to close beaches to swimmers for few days after rainstorms.
The high nutrient levels in animal waste present another set of problems. Nutrients, such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium, are necessary for proper plant growth. The high levels of nutrients in animal waste fertilize the water, just as they do your lawn or garden. Too many nutrients cause increased plant growth in lakes and ponds, which can diminish their ecological health and recreational value.
To reduce animal waste problems, many municipalities have passed "pooper scooper" ordinances. These ordinances require owners remove their pets' fecal waste and dispose of it in the garbage or toilet. This prevents the waste from being carried by stormwater into local waterways.
In accordance with the Municipal Stormwater Regulations adopted in 2004, most municipalities are required to adopt and enforce an ordinance that requires pet owners or their keepers to immediately and properly dispose of their pet's solid waste deposited on any property, public or private, not owned or possessed by that person. DO NOT toss fecal waste down storm drains. This only delivers the waste to the local waterway more quickly.
Just as the fecal wastes from concentrations of livestock and pets can create water pollution problems, so can the fecal wastes from concentrations of wildlife. For example, waste from geese, ducks and other waterfowl have caused serious water quality problems. If this is a problem in your community,do not feed the waterfowl. When people feed wildlife, their populations can expand beyond their natural limits. In an attempt to reduce the magnitude of fecal waste contamination of waterways, most municipalities are now required to adopt and enforce an ordinance that prohibits people from feeding wildlife on public lands.