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Massive, decades-old trash pile in Baton Rouge could lead to flooding

3 years 10 months 2 weeks ago Wednesday, July 29 2020 Jul 29, 2020 July 29, 2020 7:43 PM July 29, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - What looks like a landfill is actually a catch basin at the Burden Museum and Gardens off Essen Lane, where 81 tons of trash have accumulated for nearly six decades.

It's at least 10 feet deep and the size of a large swimming pool, located on the same property as the LSU Botanical Gardens.

A far cry from the blissful beauty of the flowers, this pool of plastic is not only unsightly. It's problematic.

"This watershed eventually feeds into Bayou Manchac, and from there it flows into the Amite River, then to Lake Pontchartrain, then to the Gulf... So the trash of Baton Rouge is eventually polluting the Gulf of Mexico,"Director Jeff Kuehny explained.

Keuhny says even with routine clean-ups, they've been trying to combat the trash here for years.

"The origin of this is from us, from the community. It comes out of our trashcans when we don't bag them. It comes out of our backyards. It comes off the streets. So any time we have any type of storm, you'll see it floating down the street, and it floats down the storm drain into a watershed."

And it's not just a pollution issue.

"This Burden area used to be a fabulous area for holding water, so people's houses don't flood," Marie Constantine said, who regularly volunteers to clean up different waterways around the parish.

The build-up of plastic and sediment has rendered that intended purpose useless, which they say can and will cause flooding problems in the area. But Constantine says there is a solution.

"This is so easy to fix. Baton Rouge is really 30 years behind and hundreds of cites have fixed this."

Constantine says fixing this catch basin would fold nicely into the Mayor's Storm Water Master Plan.

She says the ultimate fix would be buying expensive litter-catching equipment that she thinks could be paid for with a stormwater utility fee that hundreds of other cities around the country use.

"The equipment solves all of our problems. What the mayor is doing is amazing. We just have to add this component, get the fee, so we can buy these fabulous litter-catching pieces of equipment."

The team says they do have a meeting in place with the mayor to discuss possible solutions to the problem.

Late Wednesday, the mayor's office released the following statement.

As an open administration, the mayor always appreciates when citizens like Marie and her team bring issues to the forefront. While we have booms in place at three different locations to keep litter out of waterways, this site has been hidden and overlooked.

Marie and her team have done a lot of valuable research into what other communities are doing to address these issues using best practices. The Mayor will be meeting with this group next week to hear the suggestions this group is putting forward. Also at the meeting will be the consultants for our Stormwater Master Plan and 5 Tributaries Project.

Citizen involvement provides a real key to solving issues that effect our quality of life as a community. Marie and her team have already helped us address a similar issue that has existed at the Capitol Lakes.

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