Above: Golden retriever Kenna and her handler Laura Symonds of Environmental Canine Services, LLC. take a break from water quality monitoring on Miller Creek. ADEQ, the University of Arizona, Prescott Creeks, and the Butte Creek Restoration Council teamed up to investigate potential pollutant sources with the help of Kenna’s sensitive nose.
Gone to the Dogs
The creeks in Prescott chronically test high for E. coli, a pathogen that comes from the gut of humans and other warm-blooded animals. It is relatively easy to test for, making it a good indicator of fecal pollution in waterways. However, while testing for E. coli is easy, identifying its source can be very difficult: leaky sewer pipes, septic systems, and even fecal matter from humans or wildlife can cause E. coli spikes in streams. That is why in late May the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, in partnership with the University of Arizona, hired Environmental Canine Services, LLC to walk Butte and Miller Creeks in the heart of Prescott. Environmental Canine Services uses the powerful olfactory abilities of dogs to sniff out sewage contamination in the field. The dogs are trained to identify only human sources and ignore other pollutants. This makes them a reliable tool for honing in on areas of concern and even identifying possible leaks.