LEWISTON — Dog poop. It's a serious problem. So are cigarette butts and litter.
Dog owners, smokers and park lovers could do a better job keeping the outdoors clean, Public Works employees say.
When it comes to dog poop, athletes on the fields land in it and children playing in the park step in it, said Lewiston Public Works' Mike Bernier, who's in charge of maintaining the city's athletic fields and green spaces.
“People taking their dogs out, they're not picking it up,” Bernier said. “It seems to be getting worse. If you have any children on an athletic field, they're playing a game, they catch a ball and land right on dog crap.”
His crews mow and groom the fields. Often a worker is weed whacking and doesn't see the dog poop in the grass. “He has his head down,” Bernier said. “Boom! It's getting sprayed.” (Eeewww.)
It's illegal to not pick up dog waste, and people guilty of the crime are subject to fines. “I wish the Police Department had time, but they're responding to calls.”
Steve Murch, Lewiston's arborist, also said that dog waste is a growing problem in the city's downtown green spaces and flower gardens.
“We make a huge effort to make the intersections look nice with flower beds,” Murch said. But some dog owners use flower gardens “as a giant litter box,” he said. Dogs often wipe their paws after they've done their business, which is normal dog behavior, but it tears up flowers and soil. “Piles of feces are everywhere,” Murch said.
Second and third to dog waste are cigarette butts and litter.
Too many people, sometimes motorists at intersections, use city flower gardens “as their ashtrays,” Murch said. The gardens have mulch, and when the weather is hot and dry, a cigarette butt can start a fire, he said.
But mostly cigarette butts, which don't disintegrate, take away from the beauty of flowers. “They gather, it looks like hell around our flower beds.”
In the city parks and athletic fields, another problem is litter, Bernier said.
When the weather gets warmer, people leave soda bottles, food wrappers and leftover food on the grass, he said.
Besides exposing people to bacteria if it's not picked up, both dog poop and litter can get mushed into the ground by rain. From there, the waste goes down storm drains and eventually makes its way to the water treatment center or river.