By Roy Iwai, Multnomah County Water Quality Program
Yes, poop. That’s what I said. Turds, droppings, feces, or the “dookie”, by another name. I’m not trying to shame, but the dookie might not be quite high enough in our minds sometimes. Whether it’s your dookie, your pet’s dookie, your other animal’s dookie, we need to respect where that dookie goes. That sounds pretty obvious, but it’s something I wanted to mention for the sake of the water quality in Beaver Creek. Here’s why.
Animal feces carries different kinds of microbes and germs that are carried into Beaver Creek during storms. If ingested, these germs can cause serious stomach illness. You could have symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or fever, which can lead to severe dehydration and many worse things. It could affect people on the river downstream, boating, or swimming. Or the neighbor’s kids who are playing down by the creek.
There are standards for measuring bacteria in water quality. And your local government and community organizations try get the word out on the dookie so we can reduce the risks for people who love the stream. By meeting these bacteria levels, it help us be safer when spending time on Beaver Creek and the Sandy River.
We can point to wildlife around rivers and streams as a source of feces, that’s true. Beaver, river otter, bats, mice, birds, deer and coyote, all put some amount of feces and bacteria in the water. That’s why it’s important to filter or boil water from a stream when you are camping. But bacteria levels can and should met with this wildlife around for us to be safe swimming or being in contact with the water. We’re really concerned about human-related sources of feces that we can be responsible to control. This includes our pets and livestock, and especially our septic systems.
Recent bacteria levels were generally pretty good in Beaver Creek from the data I’ve received from the City of Gresham. The bacteria counts were below the water quality standards for the single samples that were collected. Bacteria counts do fluctuate, and we don’t know the levels when samples weren’t collected. For example in winter, when there is more storm runoff to wash feces into the stream, there is more risk of bacteria counts getting too high. It’s true, there is less recreation on the water in winter, but not necessarily none. Steelhead and salmon fishing is popular on the Sandy River, where Beaver Creek empties downstream of the Historic Columbia Hwy bridge.
There’s a few key things we can do to keep Beaver Creek safe for all of us.
If you have a septic tank and have been putting off repair or maintenance, you might consider the low and no interest loans for septic systems from the non-profit, Craft 3. (888-231-2170 ext 125). They work with the state to bring you the low rates.
If you have livestock, the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District has cost share programs for a variety of services, including exclusion fencing, mud and manure management, as well as pasture management (to help maximize pasture grass growth and reduce costs on feed). They provide a free service to all rural landowners, and urban ones, too. You can reach their rural conservationist, Jeremy Baker, directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 503-935-5361.
If you are looking to get a pet, I would guess most people know by now that if you get one, you’ll likely be a happier person – and you should pretty much know that you’ll also be picking up their poop. It seems that most people have become aware that is a new cultural norm. It’s good manners to pick up after your pets, so no one steps in it, or has to pick up other people’s dog’s poop in their yard.
Some may refuse to do it. But hopefully, if they hear about how much you love Beaver Creek, maybe they’ll think about it? Thanks for loving Beaver Creek!