Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Inside Scoop on Poop

This week, Canada’s largest city got into a bit of a poop – literally, as they wanted to ban dogs from a city-run public beach.

The City of Toronto has a program where they certify specific beaches so that people can frolic on the sandy shores, wade into the water, and bake under the summer’s sun. Part of this program prevents people from allowing their pets to frolic on these beaches, to prevent untreated waste from entering the water system.

Local dog lovers got into a hissy fit, and began protesting the new set of laws which would keep them from walking Scruffy on the sandy beaches.

Although all of our waste – yours, mine and Scruffy’s – eventually ends up in the same spot, human waste goes through an extensive filtration and chemical treatment process rendering it completely harmless.

See, when you go to do your business, once you flush it down the toilet, it makes its way to a special filtration plant, which zaps it with ultraviolet rays, soaks it in various chemical compounds, separates the solids from the liquids, eventually reducing it into its basic essential elements (think of the periodic table of elements). These basic essential elements are inert in their individual separate states upon entering our water systems, and harmless to all lives – yours, mine and Scruffy’s.

But when Scruffy goes pishy in the water, there ain’t nothin’ between it and your tap water. Sure, most responsible dog owners stoop and scoop up their pet’s poop. But I have yet to see anyone actually somehow capture their pet’s liquid waste.

That said, even though most of the solid waste is picked up, there is still residual residue left on the ground. And that’s all it takes to leave a bacterial presence, which can find its way into our drinking waters.

But – you smugly say – look at the massive size of the lake – surly a bit of poo in all that water won’t have any effect on you, me or Scruffy?

All it takes is a microscopic amount of Scruffy’s poo to mix with say Spot’s, and maybe for flavour add in a dash of Boinkers, and poof – instant e coli outbreak. The dreaded e coli bacteria isn’t usually fatal, but it can be to our kids, the elderly and anyone suffering from weakened immune systems. The rest of us will usually just get a nasty rash from e coli – if we don’t get sick to our stomachs first. Most people have symptoms similar to the 24-hour flu, stomach cramps, stiffness, muscle cramps, nausea, and it will disappear just as fast as it struck.

Which brings us back to those dog lovers protesting the City of Toronto’s ban of their pets on some – not all – SOME – public beaches.

I suppose these people don’t mind the so-called 24-hour flu, because that’s what it could be like for all of us – including Scruffy’s owner – just because someone wanted to take Scruffy out for walk.

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