Funding questioned for pet-waste program

Bradenton Beach ScenicWAVES members, faced with funding questions, are working to prevent the city’s doggie do-do program from going bye-bye.

City commissioners said last week that funding for the program, which launched last year with a grant from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, is not in the city’s newly adopted budget for 2010-11.

There also is some question about how much the program will cost the city — estimates range from $500 per year to $500 per quarter for the purchase of biodegradable bags.

The city’s ScenicWAVES Partnership Committee has promoted the use of the pet-waste eradication program, which involves stocking 11 stations on the city’s bayfront with bags to help dog-walkers to clean up after their pups.

The city received a $2,000 grant from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program to launch the program last spring. The money went toward the purchase of the doggie bag dispensers, as well as a supply of biodegradable bags made with cornstarch.

But in the new fiscal budget, the commission eliminated the department that administered the pet-waste program — the project/program management department — and funding for the department projects.

So the new budget likely doesn’t provide for the continued purchase of pet-waste bags, which could cost the city as much as $2,000 a year, said Commissioner Janie Robertson.

However, ScenicWAVES chair Pat Gentry said a year’s supply should cost the city about $500 and that grants might be available — possibly from the local estuary programs or anti-litter organizations — to operate the program.

“There are other resources,” said Gentry. “We can’t just say we’re not going to buy anymore.”

Pet waste is a major cause of non-point source pollution, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA warns that many pathogens found in animal waste can infect humans, including some organisms that can cause skin infections or chest pains. E. coli has been the source of disease outbreaks in the United States. Cryptosporidium, which is resistant to disinfection with chlorine and also found in pet waste, causes gastrointestinal illness and can be fatal in people with weakened immune systems.

The EPA also warns of stormwater carrying waste into water bodies, threatening marine life and water quality.

Gentry estimated that more than 250 pounds of pet waste is collected each year under the eradication program.

“If you made a pile of dog crap — 250 pounds worth — it’d be pretty significant,” she said.