Trained dog alerts Savannah Riverkeeper to sewage leaks

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Beaudreau showed off his sewer-sniffing skills by lying down and barking when he smelled something foul around a manhole cover near the Savannah Riverkeepers’ office.

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Savannah Riverkeeper Executive Director Tonya Bonitatibus demonstrates how her sewage-sniffing dog Beaudreau detects leaks and illegal sewer connections, such as from RVs.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Savannah Riverkeeper Executive Director Tonya Bonitatibus demonstrates how her sewage-sniffing dog Beaudreau detects leaks and illegal sewer connections, such as from RVs.

For alerting Savannah Riverkeeper director Tonya Bonitatibus to the smell of human waste, the black Catahoula Leopard Dog got to play with his special ball.

“He only gets to play with this toy when he’s working,” Bonitatibus said. “It’s a game to him.”

Beaudreau has been trained to find sewage leaks or illegal dumping, such as from RVs, that could contaminate storm drains and creeks. In a city as old as Augusta, sewer leakage is a difficult problem to monitor.

“It’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem,” Bonitatibus said. “People don’t think about the sewage that leaks from the pipes underneath the city.”

Not only does Beaudreau find the leaks, he draws attention to a subject nobody wants to discuss.

At a conference in Portland early this month, Bonitatibus said people stopped her on the street to ask about Beaudreau and the service he performs. Over and over she found herself telling people about problems with leaking sewage.

“It takes a very nasty subject and makes it one that you can have a conversation about,” she said. “He makes it OK to talk about it, which is fantastic.”

Bonitatibus is still working on a plan to use Beaudreau to work with the Augusta Utilities Department. She hopes he will help patrol areas that are already clean to keep them that way and to quickly identify the source if a problem arises.

Bonitatibus adopted Beaudreau when he was 5 weeks old to keep her safe when she’s out on the river alone. She saw how much time and money it cost the city to find these leaks and began thinking that a dog would be more efficient.

Beaudreau, now 3 years old, is one of only three sewer-sniffing dogs in the country. He was trained by Southern Canine Solutions in Augusta, which usually trains bomb-sniffing and narcotics dogs.

He started training about a year ago. It took about eight months and included samples of raw sewage taken from the wastewater treatment plant. He is still learning his job, Bonitatibus said.

“Right now, he’s too sensitive. So any time anybody pees on a tree or whatever, he lays down and is like, ‘Here!’” she said, adding that he still has to learn when he’s working and when he’s not.

“It just comes with maturity,” she said.

Off the clock, Beaudreau relaxes in the air-conditioned Savannah Riverkeepers
office, chases dragonflies and bass in the river and entertains Bonitatibus’ two young sons.

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Cadence 05/29/12 - 04:48 pm
Lucky dog

Somehow I feel like this dog just loves his job. My dog loves foul smelling things. The better to roll in.

Sweet son
Sweet son 05/29/12 - 06:05 pm
City Utilities will be Politically Correct!

And they will be willing to work with this lady and her dog but she has to keep in mind once identified problems will be added to a long list. Augusta is certainly an old city and will always have problems. Wouldn't it be nice if the dog could identify the larger problems. Hope she doesn't take him to an outdoor event to check the bushes. LOL!

Jake 05/29/12 - 06:22 pm

Keep the dog away from commission meetings, it would be embarassing.

Dixieman 05/30/12 - 08:40 pm
When is the AC...

...going to stop just running this left-wing association's press releases unedited? These folks are radical JOB KILLERS who love to litigate any use of the river they don't like. Wake up, AC! Do a little digging into their background and activities instead of just parroting their line!

unbiased_propaganda 06/08/12 - 04:02 pm
When is Dixieman...

...going to get a life. You continue copy and pasting the same rhetoric about the same organization over and over. And you think maybe someday...someone else will agree with your RADICAL views.

You have no idea what the Augusta Chronicle does as far as editing their articles....just like you have no idea what you are talking about concerning the why don't you go find something else to do?

You say you're getting sick of seeing this left-wing association's press releases unedited? Well I'm sick of seeing the same ole nonsense coming from you. How about when the world is left with no clean drinking be the first to volunteer to go without it?

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