It's in the bag

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:01

    Township seeks to regulate pet waste disposal SPARTA - If walking the dog wasn’t enough, township health officials are now proposing expanding the legislation regulating animal defecation in public and private land to include all pets. The proposed ordinance, which would hold owners responsible for removing pet waste from public, private and even their own property, is among a series of proposals aimed at making Sparta be in compliance with the state’s new stormwater management laws. “A pet can be about anything from a dog, a cat or an iguana,” said Ralph D’Aries, director of the Sparta Health Department. Under the proposed changes, Sparta residents would not be permitted to allow solid pet waste to accumulate on their property to the extent that it creates a noticeable odor to any of the adjoining properties. In an effort to protect ponds and lakes and rivers through township, the plan also would prohibit the feeding or attracting of wildlife. The only exception would be baiting fish. Violators would face penalties of up to $1,000. According to health officials, pet waste is a source of groundwater contamination not unlike fertilizing the lawn, changing motor oil or littering. With each rainfall, pollutants generated by these activities are washed into storm drains that flow into local waterways. They also can soak into the ground contaminating water below the soil’s surface. The Department of Environmental Protection considers this contamination -- dubbed nonpoint source pollution -- to be the biggest threat to ponds, creeks, lakes, wells, streams, rivers and bays, and groundwater and the ocean. Existing Sparta ordinances require dog owners to remove solid pet waste in a sealed, nonabsorbent, and leak-proof container for disposal at home or in a trash can. The law also prohibits burying waste, placing it in a storm sewer or leaving it unwrapped in a trash can. Owners with disabilities are exempt from this ordinance. The township is also looking to toughen laws that protect the municipal sewer system. If passed, the new ordinance would prevent residents from discharging wastewater including laundry and septic overflow through illicit connections into the municipal storm sewer system. Violators would be subject to fines up to $2,000. The state awarded the township $12,000 to administer the proposals. The ordinances will be up for approval at the township council meeting, Nov. 22.