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Keep in Line or Pay the Fine

2014 Arlington, Virginia, USA
Eli making public comment
Kenmore Middle School students in Victoria Keish’s sixth grade science class conducted water quality testing at Four Mile Run a short distance from the school campus, and one of the problems they noted was the presence of high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the stream water. Since they understood that fecal coliform bacteria are often associated with pathogens that can harm human or animal health, they decided they wanted to work to minimize the amount of the bacteria reaching the stream.
Through their own research, they found that a major source of bacterial contamination in Arlington is pet excrement that is not picked up by pet owners. The pet waste washes into streams with stormwater during rain events. Although Arlington County has an ordinance that requires residents to pick up after their pets, the students sensed that it isn’t taken very seriously, and that the fine for violation was lower than in neighboring jurisdictions.
Their proposed solution was to petition the County Board to raise the fine from $100 to $200 per violation. Their Caring for Our Watersheds proposal, “Keep in Line or Pay the Fine,” placed third in the 2014 competition. Part of their effort was to write to the County Board requesting the fine increase and the promotion of green infrastructure. The students also prepared remarks and student Eli Ruggen spoke on behalf of the group during the public comment period of the May 2014 board meeting. Board Chair Jay Fisette thanked them for representing Kenmore and referred the request to the County Manager and staff for further consideration.