Aug 31, 2014 1:37 PM by AP
HOUMA, La. (AP) - Organizers of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program say nearly 800 old tires have been pulled from Bayou Lafourche in spring sweeps the past two years.
"People don't know what to do with them, so they dump them. Out of sight, out of mind," said program coordinator Alma Robichaux.
The Courier reports tires aren't the only refuse cluttering Bayou Lafourche, and local officials are concerned that the waterway flowing through Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes has become a community dump.
Audrey Marcel of Chauvin said the bayou outside of her home fits that description.
"In the bayou by my house there are appliances, lawn furniture and lots of other household items that should have been thrown into the garbage," Chauvin said.
Houma resident Bonnie Hover said she was shocked to see the state of bayous when she moved here years ago from West Virginia.
"The first thing I noticed when I moved here was how beautiful the bayous are and how much trash was in them," she said.
Terrebonne Parish Councilman John Navy said he favors tougher penalties against those who litter the bayou.
"I don't think the people doing this understand the implications behind it," he said. "Terrebonne is a beautiful area and something needs to be done. People can't just destroy our parish like this."
Littering penalties include fines of up to $5,000, community service, the possibility of driver license suspension and up to 30 days in jail.
Robichaux said trash found in Bayou Lafourche is perhaps the most troubling because the waterway provides drinking water in Terrebonne and Lafourche.
"We've found everything from half of a car to refrigerators and washing machines in Bayou Lafourche," she said.
The littering derives from the years when the bayou was cut off from the Mississippi River and it became a local dump, Robichaux said. Its connection to the Mississippi has been restored.
"For 50 years it was used as a dump," she said. "That's where people put their old appliances and other trash and people are still doing it. Habits are hard to break."
Much of the junk found in the bayou would be picked up by the parish if it was put in the right place, Robichaux said.
"It would be picked up for free by the parish if they would just haul it to the side of the road and call the parish. But instead they drive it over to the bayou and dump it. It's a whole lot more work the way they do it and they risk getting a fine," she said.