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Dilworth passes new animal waste ordinance to protect water

The ordinance, unanimously approved July 25, was established to comply with municipal storm sewer system permit standards.

Rescued dogs
This rescue dog awaits its next home. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
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DILWORTH — City council members here passed a new ordinance this week targeting pet waste on public property.

The ordinance, unanimously approved Monday, July 25, was established to comply with municipal storm sewer system permit standards, also known as MS4, according to City Administrator Peyton Mastera.

“Long story short here, we are an MS4 city, and part of being a MS4 city means that there are certain storm water requirements we have to adhere to. One of the requirements in ordinances is some kind of dog or pest waste removal so it doesn’t get into our storm systems,” Mastera said.

Rain and snow runs over hard surfaces like roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and pick up pesticides, fertilizers, oils, metals, road salt and even pet waste to carry them all into storm drains. From there, storm drains discharge directly into lakes, streams and rivers like the Red River, Mastera said.

To comply with the MS4 title, the city of 4,600 people must have a system of roads and drainage systems, including man-made channels, that are owned and operated by a public entity.

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"We are connected to Moorhead and if you're connected to a city like Moorhead, and waters go to the Red River, then we're required to meet MS4 standards," Mastera said.

The classification is regulated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which also can provide grants or loans for storm water projects.

Dilworth did have some nuisance ordinances on the books for picking up pet waste but the rules weren’t explicitly clear, Mastera said.

Among other rules, the new ordinance stipulates that no owner or custodian of any animal shall cause or allow an animal to “soil, defile or defecate on any public property or upon any street, sidewalk, public way, play area or common grounds,” or “upon private property other than that of the owner, unless such owner immediately removes and disposes of all feces” in a sanitary manner.

Proper disposal of animal waste is also limited to burial where permitted, flushing in the toilet, bagging for disposal in a waste receptacle, and bagging for disposal in a public waste receptacle.

“Disposal of animal waste in storm drains, detention/retention ponds, or other storm water structures is prohibited,” the ordinance stated, adding that disposal of waste in a public compost pile is also illegal.

The ordinance does not apply to properly trained service animals when used for police activities or tracking animals when used with permission.

Anyone caught violating the ordinance could be charged with a Class II nuisance misdemeanor, which in Minnesota does not carry a specified sentence.

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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