LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Contraband Bayou runs through the heart of the city, Lake Charles. Beneath the moss-draped cypress trees, it holds a dark secret--its banks are covered in trash.
What drivers along the roadways near the bayou don’t see are the hundreds of thousands of pieces of trash polluting the waterway.
Concerned citizen of Lake Charles and resident along Contraband Bayou, Darrell Walker, has seen the litter problem grow over the years.
“It’s mind-blowing that this is going on in today’s time here,” he said. “These are items that have floated down that have been dumped in the bayou. Toys, TVs, mattresses, couches.”
Walker said just a last year, a volunteer-organized trash cleanup day along the Contraband Bayou took place, and one year later the trash is back and it’s getting worse.
“When we did that cleanup, we picked up 300 tires from the bayou,” something Walker said is heartbreaking.
Walker, who is an avid boater, knows the majority of the trash isn’t coming from the boaters who use the waterways. The trash, he said, is primarily coming from the roadways or dumped in areas where the bayou floats through residential areas. The trash floats down the bayou and eventually makes its way into the river and the lake.
Now Walker wants his fellow community members, city and parish officials to be accountable.
“We need to make [cleanup] a long-term effort, where we see it and we address it,” he said.
And Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter is aware of the growing issue, but fears it’s something that cannot be solved overnight.
“I don’t think government alone, certainly not the City of Lake Charles alone, can solve this problem. By the way, a lot of trash is not even coming from within the city limits. A lot of it is coming outside the city limits, that’s again being filtered in our bayous after a heavy rain event,” Hunter said.
For more resources on keeping Lake Charles and Louisiana clean, visit the Keep Louisiana Beautiful website.
“The first thing is to admit you have a problem, and Lake Charles we have a problem,” he said. “Southwest Louisiana, we have a problem with litter.”
As for a long-term solution, Hunter said it’s a difficult thing for him or any elected official to make as the number one top priority. But he assures that combating the litter issue is definitely in the top five priorities he hopes to address during his term as city mayor.
“We are seeing an increase [in litter] and it’s absolutely unacceptable. It’s disgusting and we’ve got to do a better job of it,” he said.
As for Walker, he’s not against development along the bayou and claims to not be an environmentalist. However, he loves the natural habitat of the region and would like to see some responsibility when it comes to keeping Louisiana beautiful.
The City of Lake Charles hosts its annual Trash Bash event for community members to recycle items like motor oil and antifreeze, batteries, electronic devices (no TVs), mercury products, paint, paper products and other miscellaneous household trash for free.
The city will not accept items like scrap metal, tires, medical waste, or household appliances.
Calcasieu Parish houses residential solid waste convenience centers where residents can dispose of tires, drained paint cans, motors, cardboard, plastics, and other recyclables. Click here for more information on the centers.
The City of Lake Charles also plans to host its annual Beach Sweep event sometime in late summer 2019.