Article courtesy of Russ White and Hannah Watt | May 5, 2015 | MLive | Shared as educational material
Environmental Canine Services LLC (ECS), an environmental consulting company based in Maine and founded in Michigan in 2009, is the first in the world to use scent trained canines to provide a rapid means for detecting and source tracking human fecal contamination in stormwater, streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans.
Such contamination proves harmful to human health, so husband and wife Scott and Karen Reynolds combined their mutual love for canines and the environment to train rescued dogs to detect and source illicit discharges in storm drain systems and other types of aging water infrastructure across the United States.
Karen Reynolds, president of ECS speaks with Greening of the Great Lakes host,Kirk Heinze, about the origins of the company, its success and the importance of removing illicit substances from our waters.
“Scott graduated with a degree in environmental studies from Michigan State and had some experience working with and training rescue canines,” Reynolds says. “We looked far and wide for a long-legged dog that showed natural curiosity in finding a particular scent and loved the water because we often work in storm drain ditches. We saved Sable, our first dog, from a shelter. Now she’s known across the country as ‘Sable the Sniffer’.”
ECS is headquartered on the East Coast but has had far-reaching success including some jobs in Washington and have set up two West Coast canine handler teams in California.
“They have a lot of impaired waterways and have been really working hard to close off the sources of contamination,” she says. “Illicit discharges are not good for beach health or fishing, but we were successful in finding many sources including some family septic systems. It’s been a real success story out there.”
With aging infrastructure across the country, demand for ECS’s services is growing exponentially.
“Our method is rapid and cost effective. We’ve had so many requests from small communities to do this kind of work because other methods are time consuming, costly and labor intensive.”
Most counties and municipalities have to prioritize funding, and in doing so focus solely on locating sources of human fecal matter and do not take action regarding contamination from animal sources, which are both harder to locate and to manage.
“One of the biggest things our dogs are wanted for is that they can detect the difference between human and animal fecal contamination in the water,” Reynolds says. “Traditional lab testing would call for microbial source tracking or DNA analysis. That can cost anywhere between $350 to $1000 per sample whereas our dogs may do up to 50 of those detections in a day and figure out whether it’s from an animal or a human.”
Recent expansions have included two Midwest teams based in Lansing that are currently in training but will be certified and ready to do a lot of work over the summer months, Reynolds adds, mentioning she will be visiting Michigan on several occasions over the course of the summer for multiple jobs, including some based in Detroit and in Kent and Jackson counties.
Please click here to hear Reynolds’ conversation with Heinze.