Many Rivers to Whiff: Sewage-Sniffing Dogs Clean Milwaukee Waterways

Sable and Logan, two canines, help the city locate sewage leaks that could pose serious human health risks.

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sewage-sniffing dog
This dog's got a nose for...sewage. (Photo: Courtesy of Environmental Canine Services)

There is something rotten in the state of Wisconsin. Fox News reports that leaks from a Milwaukee sewer systems are threatening the Milwaukee, Kinnickinnic, and Menomonee Rivers—three bodies of water that are supposed to carry storm water and nothing else.

“Our goal is at one point to get fishable, swimmable, drinkable rivers and the only way we’re gonna do that is by finding sources of pollution and fixing them,” Cheryl Nenn with Milwaukee Riverkeeper said.

That’s why Milwaukee Riverkeeper has enlisted the help of Sable and Logan, two dogs from Michigan-based Environmental Canine Services.

The company is the first and only in the world to scent-train canines as a rapid screening method to track contaminants in storm water.

“We find the dogs are very efficient because it’s an immediate result, whereas lab results, you have to take that sample, send if off to a laboratory, have it processed and wait for the results,” said Scott Reynolds, of the organization.

While cameras and dyes have been used for leak-testing, dogs prove to be a cheaper solution and just as accurate if properly trained.

Sable and Logan will head back to Michigan, but Milwaukee Riverkeeper officials say they’d like to get their own dogs. “We certainly would have enough work to keep the dogs busy for a very long period of time,” Nenn said.

What do you think: should dogs be used to sniff out pollution? 


Jocelyn Heaney is an English instructor, animal activist and freelance writer for L.A. Review of Books and Warner Bros. Pictures, among others. Her favorite animals are great white sharks, horses and all cats. She is currently at work on a memoir. Email Jocelyn | @JocelynHeaney