LEWISTON — On a recent summer afternoon, Mikey, a 12-pound mixed breed, said hi to a new (human) friend, then ran around the small dog park next to the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society.

Soon Mikey got in that familiar pattern. He circled, sniffed, arched his back and did his business.

Heidi Duran, Mikey’s owner, sprang from her chair with her plastic bag to pick it up, then threw the bag in the dog park’s trash bin.

She wouldn’t think of not picking up after him; it’s just not cool.

“There’s nothing worse than stepping in it,” Duran said. At her Lewiston home, she picks up dog waste in plastic bags and throws them out with the trash.

Ditto for Linda Caouette, who in the big dog park was watching her dog, Chance, play well with others.

“I feel guilty for the trashman,” Caouette said. To protect solid waste workers, “I always tie it tight,” she said, wondering if throwing it in the trash was the best way to dispose of dog waste.

It is, experts say.

So is flushing it down the toilet, as long as the waste is dumped out of the bag.

So is composting, if done carefully.

The choice is yours.

With my two dogs, Lucy and Zoe, I’m in the flush camp.

The Environmental Protection Agency prefers that dog waste be flushed down the toilet as long as it is not mixed with any other material or in a bag.

“This allows waste to be properly treated by a community sewage plant or septic system,” reads an EPA brochure.

Dog waste can also be sealed in a plastic bag and put into the garbage, if local law allows, which it does in Lewiston-Auburn.

Throwing out dog waste with the trash is fine, according to Joseph Kazar, retired executive director of the Mid-Maine Waste Action Corporation, where solid waste is incinerated.

MMWAC takes trash from Lewiston and Auburn, Bowdoin, Buckfield, Lovell, Minot, Monmouth, New Gloucester, Poland, Raymond, Sumner, Sweden and Wales.

Maine’s solid waste officials list the methods for managing solid waste — in order of preference — as: reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, waste-to-energy and landfill.

Obviously, reduce, reuse, recycle is out for dog waste.

Throwing dog waste out with the trash, especially when it goes to a waste-to-energy plant like MMWAC, is a good way to get rid of it, Kazar said.

“It is incinerated along with other solid waste and reduced to a sterile, inert ash,” Kazar said. The energy from burning the waste helps produce renewable power, “and the emissions would be controlled with our advanced air pollution equipment.”

When Kazar walks his dog Sammy, his method is to pick up with a plastic bag and throw out with the trash. (Newspaper bags work wicked good.)

“I walk her in the neighborhood and use a plastic Sun Journal bag. Then off it goes to make domestic, renewable energy at MMWAC,” he said.

Households that don’t put out a weekly trash bag because they recycle and compost food waste — that’s us — may be better off flushing, as long as they do it daily and as long as they don’t flush the bag, said Mac Richardson, superintendent of the Lewiston-Auburn Water Pollution Control Authority.

Dog waste dumped directly in a toilet can be handled by municipal treatment plants, he said.

“The worst thing would be to flush the bag, that would clog,” he said. “We don’t want that.”

Composting can be a good option if done carefully. The EPA says dog waste should be buried a foot deep, mixed with soil, then covered with eight inches of soil to keep rodents and pets from digging up the waste. Pet waste should never be buried in food-growing locations since parasites in dog waste can cause diseases in humans.

It’s important to pick up dog waste, experts said, for reasons beyond the obvious: it’s gross to step in and it doesn’t go away. Dog waste can contain bacteria harmful to people and other dogs, especially dogs that eat it. (Unfortunately, I own one of those: “Lucy, no!”)

Dog waste should also be kept out of street gutters and storm drains. When dog waste is left on the ground and it starts raining, the waste often finds its way to the river.

“We want to keep that out of the Androscoggin,” Richardson said.

The bottom line: Pick it up, flush it, bury it. Just do it.

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More are picking up, but still too many are not

LEWISTON — On the corner of Park and Maple streets there’s a dog station, a small trash bin with a bag dispenser and a sign that reads:

“Pet waste transmits disease. Leash and clean up after your pet. It’s the law!”

That dog station was put there by the city last summer in hopes the bags would be used.

It’s not working.

“They’re taking the bags, but dog feces are all over,” said Lewiston Public Works Deputy Director Megan Bates.

It’s a common problem in and outside of Lewiston.

When Mac Richardson, superintendent of the Lewiston-Auburn Water Pollution Control Authority, was in Portland two weeks ago, “I picked up two bags of dog poop bags. People bagged it, then left it.”

Walking around Boston recently, “I saw hundreds of bags of dog poop people left on trails,” he said.

Dog waste is common in Lewiston’s green spaces at athletic fields and abandoned lots, officials said. Like most towns and cities, Lewiston has ordinances that say owners must pick up. Dogs are prohibited where there is playground equipment.

A dog owner who doesn’t pick up their dog’s waste can be fined $160 for a first and second offense. The fine can rise to $530 for subsequent offenses.

“Compliance seems to be an issue virtually everywhere,” said City Administrator Ed Barrett.

While there has been an increase in the number of dog owners who clean up, walking their dogs with plastic bags in their pockets and extra bags in their glove compartments, “there remains a significant number who do not,” Barrett said.

Interim Police Chief Brian O’Malley said his officers must observe a dog do its business and then the owner not pick up to issue a citation. Most often the officer tells the dog owner to pick up, then warns that future offenses would result in a citation, O’Malley said.

Dog waste poses problems for public works crews, people and other dogs.

Before Wednesdays in the Park events, “our guys have to pick it up to make sure kids aren’t getting into it,” Bates said. “We have the guys going in there to mow. We’re still having issues stepping in it. It’s a health issue.”

When workers weed whack, feces goes flying.

When people walk their dogs, “the dogs are stepping in it.” Bacteria in the waste can spread dog sickness. A dog owner herself, Bates said, “I don’t understand a person who has a dog and lets their dog do their business and not pick up, anymore than I’d understand a person who throws garbage out the window. It’s their responsibility.”

Public works plans to move the dog station to a trail near Whipple Street in the hopes it’ll be used.


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