Fifteen volunteers with the Bayou Manchac Group cleaned a small section of Wards Creek off Siegen Lane a week ago and in the quarter-mile stretch of the west bank collected 140 bags of litter along with furniture, appliances and tires.

“We didn’t run out of trash, we ran out of day,” said Jonathan Scott, president of the Bayou Manchac Group. “I hate cleaning trash.”

The issue of water quality became the top priority for the nonprofit group when they organized their group about a year ago, he said. However, it’s hard to care about one part per billion of some kind of pollutant when the waterway is covered in trash, Scott said.

“It’s just neverending,” he said. “You go and clean up and it just comes back the next day.”

It’s an issue people living along Bayou Manchac and who drive boats on the waterway have seen for years, Scott said.

“It’s flowing in from street drains and culverts around Baton Rouge,” he said.

Trash that ends up in the road, in yards or elsewhere, flows into storm drains that empty in Baton Rouge waterways such as Wards Creek, which flows into Bayou Manchac and eventually into Lake Pontchartrain, Scott said.

However, because much of these waterways are either directed underground or are surrounded by chainlink fences, the public doesn’t see the trash the way it appears when it makes it farther downstream, he said.

“It gets hidden,” Scott said.

After trying to get interest from cities and parishes to address the problem, Scott said he has hopes for a new East Baton Rouge Parish Planning Commission committee that is looking at the Future BR plan in terms of water quality. He said Bayou Manchac Group members were excited when they found out about the committee because it sounded like they wanted to do something about the watershed.

“We’ve got all the right people in the room and they all say they want to improve and come up with actionable items (on water quality),” Scott said. “The first step is awareness and getting the municipalities behind it and try to come up with a solution.”

Dale Campau, environmental coordinator with the city-parish Department of Public Works, is also a member of the committee and said the trash found at Wards Creek is pretty typical.

“There’s a tremendous amount of litter that flows from Baton Rouge, particularly into Bayou Manchac,” he said.

Although the Planning Commission committee isn’t charged with litter specifically, it has been asked to review parts of Future BR that involve water quality. Because the new committee has only met twice so far, the group is still discussing what its scope will be and what kind of recommendations it will make, he said.

“We’ve just got started so we’re still not sure where we’re going with this yet,” Campau said. “It might be something that goes beyond the Future BR plan but goes toward water quality.”

Campau also participated in part of the March 2 cleanup at Wards Creek and said it was an interesting experience.

“People don’t realize when they drop something on the ground, it goes into the storm drains,” he said. “It all gets concentrated downstream, not upstream where you drop the stuff.”