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Showing posts from September, 2016

Flood Warning

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When I attended the Lake Lariat Preservation Committee meeting earlier this month, I was told that I should become a member of the committee in order to have legitimacy in the eyes of the HOA. However, I am not sure that lake preservation is what I want to advocate. What about doing away with the lake and letting Mill Creek be what it was 60 some odd years ago? Would removing the Lake Lariat dam eventually lead to cleaner water flowing into the Chesapeake Bay? This is a question any community with a dam should ask about their own watershed.

Aside from the water quality question, dams can lead to rampant destruction and loss of life, as South Carolina learned in the wake of floods last year causing 36 dam failures! Not all dam failures cause loss of life, but 81 of 336 dams in Maryland (including Lake Lariat) are high risk hazards by virtue of the potential consequences of a failure. Thirty-six dam failures in one state weighed against 71 dam failures nationwide in the five years prior…

Maps for Every Occasion

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It wasn't too many years ago that everywhere we went, one of the first things we bought was a street map. Years before I needed those, I was always sending off in the mail for topographic maps, as a good Boy Scout, to plan and carry out hikes wherever I happened to be living. With our lives these days being so digitized, it's a relief that cartographic resources are so freely available to us through personal computers. The kind of maps that I am able to pull up through my county's geographic information system (GIS) portal may be the truest reflection of local geospatial reality in all of cyberspace.

The type of map that has recently been most beneficial to me is a combined street, topographic, and property map. I printed a collage of these showing every house in the area around Lake Lariat at a scale convenient to paste on a foldable piece of cardboard, which I can carry wherever needed. The resultant map allows me to plan my bike rides in search of dog walkers and to tra…

Recruiting a Coalition of the Willing

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Every person I speak with about the need to clean up dog mess is a likely convert. That is, according to an EPA survey, 56% of dog walkers are likely not to be intransigent poop polluters. However, it may take the threat of fines, or at least awareness of the law, to bring all of the 56% around. In the two encounters I've had with my excursions around Lake Lariat this week, the responses were not supportive. I heard versions of, "I don't leave it where it would offend anyone" and, "Other people are worse offenders than me." This doesn't mean that these two fellows won't eventually come around.

Getting dog walkers equipped needs to be the first step in changing their habits. I'm going to request a grant for buying portable poop bag dispensers that people can carry on their dog leashes. These could be handed out to walkers, giving them one less excuse. Other than that, a plastic grocery bag would be helpful to hold full poop bags until they can fi…

Taking it to the Street

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It dawned on me today that to get dog waste picked up around Lake Lariat, it just takes about 13 of me walking my dog with roughly equidistant spacing all around the lake critical area. The best way to evoke behavioral change is with living examples. If I can get full coverage by at least one regular dog-walker throughout the critical area, then the visible example of them picking up after their pets will spread to others in their neighborhoods until it becomes the norm.

No need to spend time preparing signs, announcements, or information booths. The way to directly deal with this is to find people in the act of walking their dogs in their various haunts around the lake and simply walk with them and tell them what I'm trying to accomplish, look for signs of conviction, and obtain commitment. I want to be prepared to offer ideas and tools, if needed, for helping them to make cleaning up after their dog a part of their daily walks.

It will probably take more than 12 others to get fu…

You Too Can Be A Poop Scooping Pro

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My newspaper-lined poop pickup bag method is working fine, but I will admit that, though it works great on a pile of dog biscuits, a fresh specimen of the real McCoy will often deter the most enthusiastic of composters. A day of drying can bring the less manageable nuggets to a condition firm enough to retrieve. Sometimes, when walking Gretchen, I will take a temporary pass on her pungent product and find a firmer one left from another canine in the recent past. It is easy to find these replacements because there are some well known dog latrines on all of our frequent walking routes. In other cases, Gretchen locates them for me.

Leaving my dog's feces on public property, e.g. the right-of-way, is an illegal act punishable by a fine, according to the county animal control regulations, so I would not do this in the public eye. However, if I make a practice of always removing at least one neglected stool from the roadside, I feel like a good citizen. Fines for leaving dog crap lying …

Saving the Bay, One Turd at a Time

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I ran into local award-winning environmentalist, +Nancy Radcliffe and shared with her my new resolve for picking up any of my dog's droppings that might cause problems for the watershed. Nancy, who is a leader in the movement to ban plastic bags, suggested that I use newspaper instead of the dog poop pickup bags so freely available. I told her I would do that, so here is the method I came up with. Easier to grasp this idea through demonstration, so a 3 minute video was made. You can tell I'm a little nervous at first, but my voice slows down to a normal timbre at the end.

I jumped on Nancy's suggestion of newspaper as a collection device because it enables easier composting and doesn't waste plastic bags. It is possible to dump a dog turd from a poop bag into a compost bin, but the newspaper allows it to drop out easily and, if you are careful, the poop pickup bag can be used repeatedly.
In an effort to further reduce plastic bag use, I plan to transition to using pape…

Picking up Phosphorus Grenades

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It has been shown that the microcystis aeruginosa bacteria that is associated with algal blooms occurring in Lake Lariat (among many other lakes in the U.S.) is responsive to reductions in phosphorus, but not to efforts targeted at nitrogen reduction. Since dog and cat feces contain more than the usual amount of phosphorus (compared to cow manure, for example), and dogs and cats produce manure close to their own body weight every month, there is probably about 20,000 lbs of manure and about 300 lbs of phosphorus being spread by dogs and cats around the "critical area" of Lake Lariat every month, assuming owners are already sending half of their pets' manure to the landfill. That comes close to 2 tons of phosphorus every year. Unlike nitrogen, phosphorus gets consumed slowly in the soil, so it is more likely to end up in the Lake, where it may accumulate to trigger algal blooms.
One thing to note about picking up dog crap in one's yard is that it should be done freque…

Clean Yard, Clean Lake

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While septic systems are the major contributor to water pollution in this area, we humanure machines also have dogs that contribute in a more distributed fashion. Normally considered an urban problem due to runoff often being quickly shunted to stormwater drains rather than directed onto the landscape for infiltration, it also warrants attention in suburban settings with less impervious surface.

Taking the Maryland fertilizer law single application limit for lawns as a reference point, a dog contributes about 0.75 pounds per day, so every 25 days or so will drop enough manure to exceed the 1,000 square feet nitrogen and phosphorus limits in the fertilizer law. Nobody fertilizes that frequently, so leaving dog waste to decompose in one's yard violates the principle of the fertilizer law (aside from the fact that it makes a mess out of your lawn). However, when a person walks their dog instead of leaving it in a yard all the time, a lot of their pet's droppings get distributed ov…

Lassoing Lake Lariat

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It's hard to believe that the tiny floating tufts of vegetation in the photo here are capable of doing the work of about an acre of wetland shoreline in cleaning up pollution in a lake. These are artificial floating islands mimicking those in northern lakes. They actually do a great job in reducing nutrient and other pollution in Lake Lariat, Maryland. Since Lake Lariat covers 90 acres, a 90:1 ratio of wetland buffer to water surface seems like it wouldn't make that much difference, but the lake was significantly less polluted a year after these floating islands were introduced. 

The technology for these floating islands is described on the Maryland distributor's website. They employ a proprietary soil mix, which I can't help but wonder if it could be further enhanced by including biochar. Cycling of pollutants is principally through all the slime that accumulates on the plastic fibers and submerged roots of plants growing on the platform. 
The Lake Preservation Commit…

The Blue-Green Waters of Lake Lariat

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My approach to finding a good inspector for my septic system has resulted in disappointment. In my area, all of the inspectors on the state's list are not in the business anymore, not available at their listed number, or decided to ignore the training they got in order to do their inspections cheaply.

One of the people I called lives in my neighborhood, but never offered inspections. His name got on the list because he used to work for the county in some capacity dealing with sanitation and had taken the inspector training decades ago. It turned out I knew him from some events we had worked together in our community. I also saw him out on his run this morning - not unusual for this geriatric trackster.

Though my friend couldn't inspect my septic system, we continued to converse and he mentioned that the Lake (Lariat) Preservation Committee, which he serves on, had been considering soliciting residents along the lakeshore to have their septic systems inspected for a highly disc…