HOPE VILLA — Ascension Parish government workers removed 39 tons of trash Wednesday that had collected in Bayou Manchac just east of the Jefferson Highway bridge, parish officials said.

Parish drainage workers used a long-reach excavator with a special screened attachment to scoop the trash from the bayou, which divides northern Ascension and southern East Baton Rouge parishes in the vicinity of Hope Villa.

As work was under way Wednesday morning, plastic bottles and bags, paper plates, Styrofoam cups, an ice chest, balls, driftwood, floating grasses and other materials clogged the bayou from bank to bank near the bridge and downstream of BREC’s Manchac Park.

Ascension Parish government spokesman Lester Kenyon said workers hauled 13 dump truck loads — the equivalent of 78,000 pounds — to the landfill and they expect to continue Thursday.

“More is floating down,” Kenyon said.

Manchac has been designated a scenic and historic waterway by the state, but state and federal environmental regulators say its water quality has declined.

Accumulated behind a tree that fell across the bayou, the trash was brought to light by a small core of community activists primarily from Ascension.

Calling themselves the Bayou Manchac Group, the activists have said they are focused on improving the bayou’s water quality.

Members of the group say most of the trash is finding its way into Manchac from roads and stormwater drains in East Baton Rouge Parish via Bayou Fountain and Ward’s Creek. The waterways thread deep

into the city and empty into Manchac upstream of the trash pile.

“It’s the kind of stuff people throw out of their cars all the time,” Charles Caillouet, 62, of Prairieville, a member of the group, said.

Another member, Jonathan Scott, 43, of Prairieville, said he has kayaked both Baton Rouge waterways and seen trash piles along each of them. He said the trash moves down to Manchac during high water spells.

East Ascension Drainage Director Bill Roux said the trash is the responsibility of all the parishes along the bayou.

“We just can’t handle it all by ourselves,” he said.

Roux said that it is good the parish is able to get the trash where it is because otherwise it would flow into the Amite River Basin and Lake Maurepas.

Scott said the pileup highlights the need to clean up the bayou and prevent people from littering. He said his group is planning a further cleanup drive in the area Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. until evening both days. Volunteers can come any time.

“It’s a blessing in disguise to increase awareness to a whole lot of people about the trash problem in Bayou Manchac,” he said of the trash pile-up.

To help, call Jonathan Scott at (225) 773-3902 or visit http://www.bayoumanchac.org.