L AFAYETTE — Every time a heavy rain hits Lafayette, the deluge flushes the city’s streets of cups, bottles, candy wrappers and other trash carelessly tossed on the ground.
The litter slips into a storm drain, flows into a drainage coulee and eventually washes into Bayou Vermilion.
The Bayou Vermilion District has, for years, maintained a series of booms stretched across major coulees to capture some of the garbage. But keeping the booms cleaned out is labor intensive, as workers pull out the captured trash with hand-held litter grabbers and haul it off barrel by barrel in boats.
Those workers soon will be getting some relief.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council this week signed off on a joint project with the Bayou Vermilion District to buy a $150,000 piece of equipment designed to funnel the floating trash into a large metal cage, which can then be lifted and emptied into a big truck.
“It just makes our job a lot easier because it allows us to pick up a lot of trash at one time instead of a lot of trash piece by piece,” said David Cheramie, Bayou Vermilion District CEO.
The device, a Bandalong Litter Trap, was developed by an Australian company and is used by a handful of other U.S. cities to deal with waterway trash problems similar to Lafayette’s.
It will be installed along a branch of Coulee Mine just north of South College Road.
Coulee Mine is one of Lafayette’s main drainage coulees, handling water from a large stretch of Johnston Street, downtown Lafayette and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Cheramie said.
“We’ve done studies, and we estimated about 20 percent of the trash we pick up comes out of that coulee,” he said.
Overall, the amount of trash Lafayette sends to the bayou is substantial.
Bayou Vermilion District workers last year filled 1,140 55-gallon barrels with litter and pulled out 175 tires and 750 appliances, according to figures from the agency.
BVD will continue to clean out trash booms stretched across other main coulees, Cheramie said, but the Bandalong system should reduce the river trash workload and free up workers to do more restoration work along the river.
“We can do some real projects,” he said.
Cheramie said BVD is researching other innovative and efficient ways to capture the litter, but the best long-term strategy is public education.
“The real solution is to get people not to throw trash on the ground,” he said.
The recently formed Bayou Vermilion Preservation Association has taken up the cause of public education, sponsoring workshops and other events to highlight issues related to river quality.
“The river needs help, and the biggest problem is that people don’t realize that each individual has an impact,” said Charles Wyatt, president of the group.
The group’s next workshop is set for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Lafayette’s South Regional Library, where Dana Nunez Brown will discuss the best plants for helping to manage water run-off.
For reservations, visit www.bayouvermilionpreservation.org/clean-streams- reservation.html.