The scoop on what may be contaminating Tahoe | NevadaAppeal.com

The scoop on what may be contaminating Tahoe

Andrew Pridgen
Nevada Appeal News Service

A village that’s gone to the dogs over canine issues dating back a decade may have one more to bark about … and, yes, this “to-do” is over dog doo.

A small group of concerned Incline residents (including those who frequent the Village Green and Ski Beach, both open for dog traffic during the winter months), are concerned that scofflaw pet owners are remiss in picking up canine remains.

Take a walk around some of the village’s more populous streets where the doggies roam and, indeed, as the snow melts there are piles of puppy guano greeting residents at roadside.

Beyond the skirmish of courtesy and cleanliness, the dog-doo debate does in fact have teeth … as it was only a matter of time before some started questioning how this mess may affect the clarity and health of the lake.

The answer, it can and may be:

“I consistently get high fecal counts around the lake,” said Rita Whitney, threshold monitoring program manager for Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “I try to rule out the chance of a septic (spill) … so that means it’s people recreating, or dogs.”

High fecal coliform counts are well-publicized in other regions, and some officials say that Tahoe may be soon “tuning into” fecal coliform and e-coli as a problem.

“The concern is a valid one at (Tahoe),” said Jacques Landy, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lake Tahoe Basin coordinator. “It is a concern of the EPA’s.”

Landy said currently there are only occasional exceedences of coliform bacteria in the lake’s water, and determining the exact source is impossible without DNA testing EPA and TRPA officials noted.

That doesn’t mean the area’s water sources can’t be better monitored.

“All the coliform tells us is it’s mammal,” Whitney said. “We’re going to increase (monitoring) near drinking water (sources) …This is all subject to comments, Tahoe hasn’t done a lot of coliform testing in the past.”

TRPA officials said increased monitoring may be on the horizon.

“We have done fecal (coliform surveys) at some of the beaches, some results are disturbing because of drinking water and human health,” TRPA’s Whitney said.

Some who have come out against proposed construction of more piers and dropping new buoys in the TRPA’s new Shorezone plan could use reported use days of high coliform levels as justification for building fewer structures one environmentalist said.

And whether it is the canine companions, humans or even geese at the heart of the problem is still highly subjective.

“I have suspicions about where (high coliform levels) are coming from,” TRPA’s Whitney said. “It’s still a human health issue, with public access, new piers and buoys – there is a potential for increase.”