New video shows litter washing into Baton Rouge watershed

Thursday’s heavy rain, which shows no signs of abating over the next several days, serves as yet another powerful reminder of how much litter is generated on Baton Rouge streets and how much of it continues to pile up in the local watershed.

Photographer Marie Constantin, who over the past year has single-handedly launched a citizen campaign to clean up the litter that flows from drainage canals into creeks, bayous and beyond, recorded a video around midday Thursday of stormwater carrying litter down Ward’s Creek and into an area of low-lying wetlands at the LSU Burden Gardens.

“It was like watching a Mardi Gras parade of Styrofoam cups,” says Constantin, who filmed the video near Concord Estates. “Then, I ran over to Burden and it was a floating, massive mess and stuff was entering there.”

Ward’s Creek naturally drains into the wetlands at Burden, bringing literally tons of discarded bottles, cans, Styrofoam cups and other trash in its wake, as detailed in a recent cover story in Business Report.

A heavy rain, like Thursday morning’s, exacerbates the problem, serving as what Constantin compares to a “massive toilet flush.”

In a phone interview this morning, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome reiterated her commitment to tackling the parish’s litter problem and outlined several steps her administration is taking.

“We know the collection of debris at the LSU Burden Gardens has accrued over decades, Broome says. “This just didn’t happen since we’ve been on board but I am extremely grateful for citizens like Marie Constantin who advocate for environmental soundness, because that is a priority for me.”

Broome noted that the city-parish department of transportation and drainage is doing an analysis of the watershed “to see where litter-catching booms can be established.”

The mayor also says the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, which has selected Baton Rouge as one of three cities to participate in a plastic waste reduction campaign, will focus on cleaning up the Burden wetlands site specifically. 

Finally, Broome says she has not ruled out trying to pass some sort of fee to fund litter-catching booms and equipment but that she wants to pursue public-private partnerships first.

“I am optimistic we can pursue funding for booms without a fee using the P3 route,” she says. “If not, I will let Marie lead the charge on pursuing a fee but right now I believe a fee is premature and we are going to work on cleaning this up. This is a problem and I am going to address it as the mayor-president.”