• King County turns to dogs to sniff out human waste in waterways

    By: Joanna Small

    Updated:

    KING COUNTY,Wash. - Sniffing out a toxic mystery -- dogs are now being used to find the source of possible human waste in our creeks.

    The water at and near Juanita Beach has been contaminated before but experts aren't sure if its contaminated now. We took a look at how the dogs may help and if you should be in the water in the meantime.

    "Yeah good girl,” trainer Aryn Hervel tells her dog Crush.

    Good dog, possibly bad news. When Crush lays down it’s because she smells human waste, and scientists want to know if it's contaminating the Juanita Creek watershed. During Monday's hour-long test, Crush and her partner Molly laid down a lot.

    The city of Kirkland insists the water at the beach is safe enough to wade in; there are kids who are in the water and the beach hasn't been closed in several years, but the dogs hit on several of the water samples, and we don't know what that means yet.

    But we did some digging.  Juanita Beach was closed in 2009, 2008 and twice in two weeks in 2007 for high levels of human waste—at least once because of a sewage pipe leak. Experts say if the dogs are right that's likely the case again.

    "Maybe we can narrow it down to 20, 30 houses that possibly have a leaky septic system, a connection from their sewer line into the storm line,” says Ryean-Marie Tuomisto, the water quality program coordinator for Kirkland.

    That can happen as soon as tomorrow -- faster than any laboratory. The whole thing was news to beachgoers.

    "In the years it had always been from geese,” says Cindy Lambson, who was spending the day on the beach with her 6-year-old, Colton.

    Until she knows where in the watershed Crush smelled something foul she's staying on the sand.

    "No I think we will pass today on the water,” she tells us.

    The samples the dogs sniffed today will still be sent to a lab  but results may take two months to come back. Tuesday the dogs will visit the waterways that had samples they identified as contaminated.

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