Water your 2011 goals?

NeshaminyCreek
Wastewater was discharged from a Colmar treatment plant in to the Neshaminy Creek. (AP)

Washing the new year clean, here are a couple of quick items on clean water - or the lack thereof - in the Philadelphia area.

In a story in today's Daily News, "Is 'fracking' poisoning Pa.'s water supply?" an Associated Press review "found that Pennsylvania's efforts to minimize, control and track wastewater discharges have sometimes failed."

One key finding is that "Regulations that should have kept drilling wastewater out of the important Delaware River Basin, the water supply for 15 million people in four states, were circumvented for many months."

And here's another:

In 2009 and part of 2010, energy company Cabot Oil & Gas trucked more than 44,000 barrels of well wastewater to a treatment facility in Colmar, Montgomery County. Those liquids were then discharged through the town sewage plant into the Neshaminy Creek, which winds through Bucks and Montgomery counties on its way to the Delaware River.

Regulators put a stop to the practice in June, but the more than 300,000 residents of the 17 municipalities that get water from the creek or use it for recreation were never informed that numerous public pronouncements that the watershed was free of gas waste had been wrong.

So we can feel righteous railing against the big bad fracking industry for polluting our water, but in some cases the pollution might be closer to home than we expect: Dogs.

As you may recall, the Water Department has opened a campaign to keep dog waste from entering the watershed by finding the perfect "spokesdog" to raise Philadelphians' awareness of the problem. Well, now it's time to vote. Per the PWD press release, citizens can go to the special "Spokesdog" page and

vote daily for the hounds they feel best represent the title of Philly Water's Best Friend.  More than 80 dog owners have declared their pets' candidacy.  And while none has a campaign per se, each pooch has a photo and bio to help voters decide if their lifestyle is eco-friendly enough for the job.

The 20 dogs with the most votes by February 28 will face off during two pageants next spring.  In the end, two winners will be named, one from East Falls and one from Manayunk or Roxborough.

The owner of each winning dog will receive a $200 item from a local pet store.  In exchange, each must attend three community events with their dog on behalf of the PWD.

The chief duty of each spokesdog-owner duo is to prevent water pollution resulting from pet waste.  They will accomplish this by handing out brochures and biodegradable bag dispensers.  These bags will then be used by dog walkers to pick up their petsí waste before flushing it down the toilet or putting it in the trash.

Joanne Dahme, general manager of public affairs at the Philadelphia Water Department, says this is more than just the responsible thing to do.  It is also good for the environment.

"When left on the ground, pet waste becomes a pollutant," Dahme said.  "Rain and melting snow can wash it into creeks and rivers, raising bacteria levels in the same waterways where we like to fish, boat and picnic along.  Our rivers and streams are precious public amenities, and we need to ensure that they are treated that way."

Hopefully, we can keep these precious public amenities from being polluted by sources large and small in 2011.

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