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Date of Issue: April 23, 2008

Biodegradable pet-waste bags planned

A Bradenton Beach advisory committee hopes to soon bag two new education campaigns for public delivery.

The city’s recently merged ScenicWAVES Partnership Committee is promoting the use of new biodegradable pet-waste bags, soon to be available at 8 to 10 stations along the city’s bayfront.

The group also is working on a campaign to discourage the use of plastic grocery bags.

Members of the committee met April 14 at city hall. A subcommittee also met on April 18 at city hall to discuss reprinting the city’s eco-friendly visitor guide.

The “pet-waste eradication program” in Bradenton Beach will be supported with a $2,000 grant from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.

The money will be used to buy “doggie bag dispensers” and a supply of biodegradable bags made with corn starch, according to Lisa Marie Phillips, project and program manager for the city.

“We’re only going to be on the bay because that’s where we have the issue,” Phillips told committee members.

“They will be in high-traffic areas as identified by the spotters,” Phillips added, referring to citizens who have reported people failing to scoop after their pets have pooped.

Seated with the group was Mayor Michael Pierce, well aware of a pet-waste problem. He recently hosted visitors to the Island, one of whom stepped in dog waste on the pier, where pets are prohibited.

“People step in it and stuff,” said committee member David Teitelbaum, shaking his head. Beyond the waste stations, he wanted to know what could be done about enforcing the city ordinance requiring the removal of pet waste.

“The officers have said they have to see it personally,” said committee member and former Mayor Connie Drescher.

Julia Burch, a liaison to the committee from the SBEP, suggested additional outreach. She reported that the Tampa Bay Estuary Program set up a temporary educational booth in high-traffic, dog-walking areas to talk with people.

“That makes sense,” said Phillips. “I wouldn’t mind doing that, going down to Herb Dolan Park one day.”

Phillips said she has talked with people about removing pet waste and has heard, “It is just fertilizer.”

Pet waste, however, is a major cause of nonpoint 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.

Before the pet-waste stations get planted in the ground, planning and zoning officials, as well as the city’s building official will review the locations.

The committee also discussed the city’s campaign to discourage the use of plastic bags. The group hopes to create signs for placement on the Historic Bridge Street Pier and in other locations to encourage alternatives to the bags.

Plastic shopping bags are not prohibited by city ordinance, though such regulations do exist in other locations. San Francisco’s board of supervisors made the city the first in the nation to ban plastic bags last March.

For more than a year, Bradenton Beach officials have made a concerted effort to encourage the use of cloth bags and discourage plastic.

The bags are hard to recycle, easily blow into tree branches and waterways, threaten marine life and occupy landfill space. Many of the bags also are petroleum-based, according to Greenpeace, an international environmental group.

WorldWatch Institute, another international group, has estimated that about 5 trillion nondegradable plastic bags are used worldwide each year. It takes about 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million plastic bags.

The next general meeting of the ScenicWAVES committee will take place at 3 p.m. Monday, May 5, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N. A meeting of the group’s parking committee will take place at 2 p.m. that day.

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