Poop-sniffing pooch helping to protect NJ bay’s water quality
Remi is a 9-year old, 50 pound black Labrador mix with a nose so powerful, she can sniff out human waste like nobody's business.
She, along with her incredible smelling skills, helped Clean Ocean Action and Save Barnegat Bay improve the water quality in Barnegat Bay.
Karen Reynolds is president of Environmental Canine Services in Vero Beach, Florida. They help protect the environment by using scent-trained K9s to detect and source track illicit sewage discharges in stormwater systems and surface waters.
Reynolds is also Remi's owner. The dog has been living with Karen and her husband Scott for the past eight years after being found as stray. As they were raising her, Karen noticed she had an excellent nose and began to train her as a scent-detection dog for the business.
In 2016, ECS helped COA clean up the Navesink River with scent-detection dogs, cleaning up leaking sewer lines. It was so successful, that after returning in 2018 for a follow-up, their services were needed once again in 2021.
Reynolds said using a model like the one in the Navesink River, Save Barnegat Bay teamed up with COA and did the same thing getting the communities involved to help clean up the Barnegat Bay.
Six towns along the Toms River which flows into the Barnegat Bay including Ocean Gate, Island Heights, Beachwood, South Toms River, Toms River, and Pine Beach, were investigated by the three organizations, along with Remi, to investigate their stormwater systems to find any possible sewage leaks that could possibly be seeping into the Toms River.
Remi's job was simple: to sniff out the odor of sewage pollution. Reynolds doesn't know exactly what Remi smells which tells her brain that this is human waste sewage. But most scenting dogs are smelling vapors of some sort. "We just think, in general, she knows the scent of sewage and she discriminates between that and kind of animal waste," said Reynolds.
She sniffs for human waste in places where the presence of a sewer leak or a septic failure may be happening. The crew follows Remi upstream, along the river, or tributaries to the river or through the stormwater systems sniffing manholes to see if the sewage has seeped into the stormwater systems.
Remi's sniffs are then recorded and the ECS crew maps it for COA, sending them a spreadsheet of all of her responses and the locations. COA then puts this data together with other data they've collected. They confer with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, then present the findings of what was found and what needs to be done to remediate the problem.
Reynolds said so much territory was covered in six towns over just five days because Remi is such a timesaver.
The time it would have taken for human personnel to gather the data and locate sewage leaks would have been so expensive and time-consuming, said Reynolds.
"What we can do with Remi is actually reduce the time to finding and fixing the problem," she added.
But this may be Remi's last human waste sniffing project. Reynolds said the family, along with Remi is retiring and she is closing down her environmental canine services business, which is believed to be the only one of its kind in existence in the country.
Reynolds said Remi is looking forward to a calm life. She loves to snuggle too. But when Remi gets a burst of energy, she does love to run, run, run. Because of that, Reynolds said her nickname is "Zoom Zoom."
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