By: Michelle Watson
Louisiana ranks top ten in the nation for states with the most amount of litter. Litter can be in public parks, outside homes, or most commonly in bodies of water. Water pollution is nothing new in Louisiana. For example, take the 2010 BP oil spill that caught the attention of many Americans. However, water pollution in Louisiana can be a lot closer to home. A little over 20 miles away from LSU’s campus is where you can find Bayou Manchac and Bayou Fountain.
At one point in time, Bayou Manchac was an important river for ships coming through Louisiana. Today, with bigger ships, the river is too small for ship transport, thus has become a place for leisure and history. Yet pollution continues to flow throughout the river today. Bayou Manchac flows into Bayou Fountain, making a lot of the pollution that starts in Bayou Manchac flow into Bayou Fountain.
In 2009, Bayou Manchac was listed as a historic and scenic river, but with all the pollution filling up the waterway, people could no longer enjoy the river. Most of the litter comes from debris that collects against a tree or other natural sources.
In 2013, the state of Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries implemented the scenic river management plan that is supposed to monitor and improve the pollution of Bayou Manchac. This plan seeks to manage water quality, recreational use and the amount of litter that comes through the river. The plan also enforces new polices such as requiring every pipeline that goes through Bayou Manchac have a permit.
In this management plan it was found that some of the issues that Bayou Manchac had were the overflowing of septic tanks and other sanitary concerns. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LEDQ) came in and reported that Bayou Manchac’s water quality was not up to par, despite the fact that the LEDQ does not consider trash as a water pollutant. Additionally, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the Bayou is crucially low. For animals living in the bayou, not getting enough oxygen can be life-threatening.
In addition to this plan, the Louisiana Natural Heritage program (LNHP), a group that detects where endangered or threatened species live, found that there were three species living in or around Bayou Manchac that were in danger. These animals are manatees, the eastern harvest mouse and the inflated heelspiltter. Manatees are considered an endangered species, while the inflated heel splitter, a species of freshwater mussel, is considered a threatened species. All three of these species however, need to be watched and preserved.
Despite the efforts that the state has done, local residents are the ones who get to see the day to day accumulation of litter pile outside their homes. They are the ones that are affected day in and day out. One of these locals, Johnathan Scott, is creator of the Bayou Manchac group, an organization that seeks to clean the bayou.
“I moved to the Bayou in 1998 and there was already a group of bayou neighbors swapping emails about flooding, water quality, litter, blockages, wildlife, and history,” Scott said, “The list grew quickly and we put it into a yahoo discussion group at www.bayoumanchac.org.”
Since then, the organization has grown to be heavily volunteer-based. It has even had other groups stem from the same idea as theirs, such as PaddleBR. PaddleBR was a group that was started to help remove litter that flows from Bayou Manchac into Bayou Fountain, so that people could go out and paddle-board on it. Creator of PaddleBR, Nathanial Klumb, does not like the litter that collects in the bayou.
“No, it’s not yours, but you feel better if you pick it up,” said Klumb.
On September 21, 2014, with the help of Volunteer LSU and PaddleBR, the Bayou Manchac group collected trash along Bayou Manchac. For four hours, over 1600 volunteers worked in the Louisiana sun removing nearly two tons of trash and litter from one eighth of the bayou.
Scott, of the bayou Manchac group, continues to push forward and make Bayou Manchac not just a place known for cleaning up, but a place where families can come out and enjoy the water. His most recent goal is to try to get paddle launches installed. But this can’t happen until we get a cleaner, better, Bayou Manchac.
“There are real opportunities for improvements to water quality, wildlife recreation and education, and we hope to move things right along,” Scott said.
But until then, people can help make this dream of a better Bayou Manchac a reality by volunteering to clean up with the Bayou Manchac group, or donating.