Letter: Increasing Open Defecation Poses Real Risk To Public Health – Response to Issue #15/20 Letter “Worriers of the World Unite!”

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Dear Editor: 

I am writing in response to Kevin Doyle’s September 15th letter entitled “Worriers of the World Unite!” I felt compelled to address Mr. Doyle’s dismissive remarks in the second paragraph, specifically where Mr. Doyle states that “for those staying awake at night at the thought of poop in the woods, let’s remember that the bears do the same and we happily bring 1000’s of grass cattle up here each spring who don’t use the non-existent portable potties either”.

It is more than reasonable to believe that increasing open defecation by a growing number of visitors poses a real risk to public health in some local public and private water access points. My main concern is that unburied human feces are being frequently and carelessly deposited on “karst” bedrock quite close to water sources where there is little or no soil to filter runoff. Mr. Doyle should visit the Little Cove area, or Crane River Park, and I am certain he will see evidence of this problem, if he looks, as it is blatantly obvious. I have personally observed evidence of open defecation immediately adjacent to water sources and even directly into the water locally. 

With respect to livestock not being a public health threat, I would remind Mr. Doyle of the deadly Walkerton water tragedy that occurred in our County some years ago, as a result of human negligence, was a water borne pathogen originating in cattle. All responsible beef producers in our County take mitigative measures to prevent manure from contaminating water sources. I can also recall a news item from a few years ago where one of the City of Owen Sound’s water well sources tested positive for pathogens from human feces because someone chose to openly defecate nearby. 

The problem may be even worse this year due to the pandemic, and it is clear that many visitors are choosing to not use toilets provided at access points. I am uncertain of what steps are required to try to reduce or end the practice of open defecation. Local enforcement would be ineffective due to the somewhat discreet nature of this issue. Perhaps the Municipality, in league with the Province, and Federal parks, could draft, and post, educational information at popular public access areas to discourage open defecation and encourage use of toilets provided to protect local public health.

I would invite any local public health professionals to “weigh in” on my concerns, most particularly if they feel that I am overstating the issue. Mr. Doyle may not have a concern where he resides, but he might feel differently if he was sourcing his water near local public access sites.

Yours truly:

Douglas SWEIGER

Tobermory, Ontario