Volunteers Pull 25 Tons of Trash from Bayou Lafourche

By:  Jacob Batte, HoumaToday.com

March 14, 2015

Two couches, a scooter, a washing machine, a microwave, a 40-inch television, an NBA regulation basketball goal and a vacuum cleaner.

Those are some of the things volunteers pulled from Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes’ primary source for drinking water today during the 4th annual Bayou Lafourche Cleanup.

From Napoleonville down to Golden Meadow, more than 1,000 volunteers, most dressed in bright-orange T-shirts, picked up trash along Bayou Lafourche. Some walked along embankments to pick up trash while others scanned the waters in pirogues.

Each year, about 25 tons of trash and recyclables are picked up during the cleanup, said event organizer Alma Robichaux. Robichaux, who also serves as the education coordinator at the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, said she’ll receive this year’s totals early this week.

Most of the trash is plastic water and soda bottles, cigarettes and tires, though each year some off-the-wall items are pulled from the bayou, including toilets and ice chests.

“In years past, we’ve pulled several lawn mowers out, shingles and other construction material and some propane tanks, as well. You can see that people use it as a dumping ground,” Nicholls State Biology Professor Alysse Ferrara said.

“Last year, they found a bronze dog statue,” Robichaux said.

Many supporters say they come out to clean up Bayou Lafourche because it is the area’s main water supply.

“It’s the drinking water source of more than 300,000 residents. It’s critical to all of us,” Ferrera said.

The most important function of the cleanup is the increased awareness about the conditions of the bayou, said Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District Director Ben Malbrough.

This year, the event featured local big-name sponsors. including John Deere, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center and the T. Baker Smith civil engineering firm.

“We’re getting people in the bayou that don’t normally see it. There are people out there that I don’t know would have ever been so intimately close to it,” Malbrough said. “When you’re in the bayou and you see and feel the trash that’s there, it really brings awareness to what people are dumping in the bayou.”

Beyond contaminating the drinking water, Robichaux said dumping your trash in the bayou can harm wildlife and vegetation. Plastic can also clog drains and cause flooding in neighborhoods along the bayou.

“Getting the word out that this is our drinking supply is big. We’re hoping we can get some signs up that say don’t throw anything in here you wouldn’t want to drink,” Robichaux said. “Our water companies do a fantastic job, but the more they have to clean up, the larger our water bill is.”

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