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Since You Asked: Flush with ideas for disposing of doggie doo

Scary column about the dangers of "two or three days of droppings from 100 dogs." (Since You Asked, Oct. 10) Please go further and tell us how the excrement should be disposed of in our yards.

Buried? In the trash to the landfill? After centuries of having dogs as close companions, it seems a wonder there are any human survivors.

— Virginia V., Ashland

Virginia, we think it's safe to say there's no danger of a doggie doo doo Armageddon at present.

For those not in the know, Virginia is referring to a statistic in which the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that two or three days' worth of droppings from a population of about 100 dogs could produce enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay, and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it, to swimming and shell fishing.

Peter Spendelow, a solid-waste policy analyst with Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality, presents three options for disposing of the pet poo — bury, flush or landfill. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

Waste can be buried so long as it is not in an area where you plan to grow food (or walk barefoot), said Spendelow.

"The organics in the pet messies will degrade over time, and it will release those nutrients that the shrubs and other plants can make use of," he said.

However, he discourages people from adding pet droppings to home composting piles as they do not regulate enough heat to kill bacteria and viruses.

Oddly enough, flushing pet waste down the toilet is practiced by some.

Spendelow says this practice is discouraged in Portland because the city's single pipe system does not have the capacity to handle the overflow, especially during big rain storms.

However, this is not a problem for Medford's double pipe system. Medford Public Works Director Cory Crebbin said flushing pet waste down the toilet is acceptable. But still yucky, in our humble opinion.

While all options stink to varying, Spendelow says the least offensive choice is to thoroughly bag waste and dispose of it in landfills.

"I'm not enthusiastic about asking people to put organic material in the landfill, but considering the other options, it is the least bad option," he said.

"Landfills are pretty safe, with one exception. When stuff goes into the landfill and degrades, it produces by-products that are harmful, including carbon dioxide and methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide."

However, the local Dry Creek landfill has means to generate sustainable, green power by converting methane gas into enough electricity to power about 3,000 homes. Just think of it as poo power.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.