CHAPEL HILL — Linda Justice wants a neighborhood vandal to leave the “Poop Pollutes” signs posted in The Oaks alone.
For nearly three years, someone has been stealing and vandalizing the small, green signs that Justice and Jim Freedman, president of the Oaks Homeowners Association, put up around the part of the neighborhood off Ephesus Church Road. Someone even hung a bag of dog feces from one, she said.
“They’re destroying their tax money dollars by vandalizing these signs,” Justice said.
The town’s Stormwater Management office provides the signs to several neighborhoods, said Wendy Smith, environmental education coordinator. The campaign began as a way to get people to pick up after their dogs on greenways, she said. Several homeowners associations that had problems with dog owners complying with their “pooper scooper” rules also asked for the signs, she said.
The signs are made of heavy aluminum – similar to street signs – and cost roughly $16 each. The neighborhoods pay for the hardware to attach the signs, which can run about $2, Smith said.
Most neighborhoods report the signs have helped, she said. The Oaks III neighborhood is the only one that has had problems, she said.
“They’ve been vandalized, taken, twisted around, and they’re not easy to twist, because they’re made of heavy metal,” Smith said.
Since she used to work in recycling, Smith said she thought someone might be trying to sell them to metal recyclers. She called around but learned the companies don’t accept signs that appear to belong to a municipality.
While dog feces isn’t a problem when there’s just one dog on an acre of property, Smith said there are so many dogs in an urban area – and more sidewalks, streets and other impervious surfaces – that the feces doesn’t have time to break down before washing into creeks and storm drains.
Decomposing pet waste can release parasites, such as Giardia, roundworm and hookworm, and it also consumes oxygen and releases ammonia, which is great for weeds and algae but not aquatic organisms and fish. The average dog produces roughly 0.75 pounds of fecal matter each day. That equates to roughly 5 tons of poop a day for every 15,000 dogs.
Chapel Hill doesn’t regulate the pickup and disposal of pet waste, but Smith said the town could add regulations as it revises its stormwater management ordinance.
Carrboro approved its “pooper scooper” rule in 2008. It requires someone walking a dog to remove waste from streets, sidewalks and other public areas, including common areas in multifamily complexes. The rule does not specify how it is enforced, and town officials also seemed unsure last week.
“It’s more a peer-pressure situation, where you hope people would do the right thing,” said David Poythress, the town’s streets supervisor.
Justice and Smith said they haven’t called police about the vandalized signs.
“At this point, unless somebody catches them, it’s hard,” Smith said. “It probably would be a low priority for police.”