Waterways in southern Tangipahoa Parish are sporting cleaner and spiffier new looks thanks to a relatively new litter-collecting vessel and grant money.
Parish Councilwoman Kim Coates said tactical in-stream litter collection devices have collected tons of trash from three area waterways since 2000.
That type of cleanup effort will continue as a fourth vessel was recently placed in the Natalbany River in addition to ones already placed in Ponchatoula Creek, Yellow Water River and Selser’s Creek.
“It’s been wonderful; they are working,” Coates said. “A lot of the trash was getting by, and I was getting a lot of complains.”
But for the past three years those watery eyesores have been eradicated.
Coates said the so-called Litter Gitters were first put in the water in February 2020 by Osprey Initiative LLC of Mobile, Alabama, a company which launched regional but is now national. Two devices had been added by the end of 2022.
Depending on hydrology, navigation and accessibility, Litter Gitters can be implemented throughout the parish, Coates said. Osprey crews periodically empty the traps and detail what type of litter is collected in each trap. That litter will then be separated for recycling or hauled to a landfill.
“But they try to recycle what they can,” Coates said.
The devices are mostly funded through grants, and Osprey will use the data it collects in an effort to secure more funding. For example, a grant from Coca-Cola was one of the first the parish received after Osprey showed the company the number of Coke bottles and cans that were collected.
Another early grant was received from regional homebuilder Denham Springs Land Development.
“We try to promote and show people you got litter in the back of your truck and you are throwing it in the ditch by the stop sign,” Coates said. “When it rains, all of that is going to go back down canals and creeks and rivers, and then it all flows down to the lakes.”
This past year the parish was also the recipient of Entergy’s Environmental Initiative Fund grants “for removal of solid waste litter using Litter Gitter vessels from seven waterways of lower Tangipahoa Parish and which flow to Joyce WMA and Lake Pontchartrain. Also public environmental awareness outreach and education,” according to Entergy’s grant specifications.
In the past three years, more than two tons of garbage was trapped in the original three waterways, most of it coming from Ponchatoula Creek which starts in Hammond and flows through Ponchatoula. Hammond is the parish’s largest city and home to Southeastern Louisiana University.
During a recent cleanup more than 1,000 pounds of litter was collected.
“When you pick up a soda or beer can and the logo is from 10 years ago, it’s truly legacy because you can tell from just the writing and the logos and the lettering this has been here for a long time,” Coates said of her experience during a cleanup.
Coates is uncertain how many vessels will be put into service as some waterways are either too shallow for the trap to float or they are too big or the flow is too fast, which will also tear the trap.
She did recall a time this past year when the Litter Gitters had to be picked up for some maintenance of the canal or river. When they were out of the water rain brought much of the trash back downstream.
“(Residents) were saying we need to get this picked up,” she said. “We are cleaning up and making a difference.”
This story was originally published in The Daily Star by Richard Meek. Read the original story online here.