Since 2016, harvesting shellfish was prohibited from over 565 acres of the Navesink River in Fair Haven due to the detection of high levels of human waste.
“We treat 4.4 billion gallons of sewage a year. We have about 200 miles of pipe we maintain. We send a robot in at least once every five years to inspect from the inside,” said Michael Gianforte, executive director of the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority. The authority also uses lasers and sonar to check the condition of the pipes.
But now assisting in the task are Kai and Remi, dogs that are trained to sniff out human fecal pollution anywhere, on land or water.
“That can be from damaged sewer lines or from septic tanks that are not being properly maintained,” said Alison McCarthy, coastal watershed protection coordinator of Clean Water Action. “It can also be from illicit connections from people’s homes into the storm water system.”
Clean Ocean Action has partnered with the Environmental Canine Services to help identify several areas where fecal contamination is a problem for the Navesink River.
Laura Lecker, canine handler for Environmental Canine Services and Karen Reynolds, president of the organization, say Kai and Remi are game-changers when it comes to the cost and time it takes to identify fecal pollution.
The goal is to restore the contaminated area of the river by 2020, McCarthy said, which they’re on track to do. They also hope to expand use of the dogs in other parts of the state.
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