Sunday, September 19, 2010

09/19/2010 - Bayou La Trash

Launch: Bayou la Trash Public Launch
Destination: Bayou La Batre to see how effective the Coastal Cleanup was in that location.
Launch Cost: Free
Distance: 9 miles (round trip)
Paddle time: 2.5 hours
Weather: Hot and Humid. Winds calm.

Header Image

1) I launched early in the morning (dark) and headed out into Portersville Bay to watch the sunrise and it was superb.

2) The sunrise was a vibrantly colorful treat - well worth the early rise.

3) Yesterday was the Coastal Cleanup. As I expected, the organizers forgot about the shoreline of Bayou La Batre (as they do every year) which I will from now on refer to as Bayou La Trash. 

4) You really have to kayak along the shoreline of Bayou La Trash to understand the magnitude of that waterway's problems.

5) Snails were dominating some of the vegetation ... and trash.

6) Snails galore.

7) Welcome to the Seafood Capital of Alabama - Bayou La Trash! I keep reading the question, "Is the Gulf Seafood safe to eat?" and reading the answer, "Yes,", by different people, like this toxicologist. I don't wish to scare anyone, but, the Gulf Waters are connected to the Inland Rivers of Alabama, including Bayou La Trash. According to the Alabama Dept. of Public Health, many of the rivers in Alabama are polluted so bad that they advise not to eat the fish. (see: Fish Consumption Advisory). Even some Gulf of Mexico fish are included in the advisory, so anyone saying all the fish in the Gulf of Mexico are good to eat is in conflict with the Alabama Dept. of Public Health which advises that some fish are not fit for consumption.

8) With all the nearby industry, who knows what coats the surface of the water in Bayou La Trash. Discarded cans with chemicals in them rust in the water and the chemicals eventually release into water. Is the seafood safe to eat? Do you know what waterway a fish has been swimming in before you eat it? Just because you caught a fish in one stream does not mean that fish has been in that stream all of its life. Eating fish from the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama is like playing Russian Roulette. Some of those fish carry a toxic load. Would you put a gun with a bullet to your head and pull the trigger? That is what you are doing when you eat fish from Alabama and its coastal waters. The only difference is, instead of the chance of instant death, if you eat fish, you have an increased risk of having a child with autism supposedly caused by high mercury levels, or you might have just put yourself at risk with the consequence of suffering from a host of ailments linked to toxic consumption.

9) Good news. I did not paddle through any petroleum spills today. However, there was a nasty film on the water. Could toxic paint particles be in that cloud of dust drifting onto the water from the sand blasting operation?

10) No visible BP Oil Spill activity - every sign of them was gone. Unfortunately, BP oil cleanup crews have left plenty of oil boom littering the shoreline. When the mesh breaks on these booms, millions of floating particles will coat the shorelines. BP: Booms Pollution or Boycott Polluters.

11) A couple with their child were out canoeing on Bayou La Trash, admiring the colorful shrimpboats.

12) With colorful reflections, as seen in this photo, plus shore birds, and plant diversity, Bayou La Batre could be a big attraction to kaykers and canoeists. Instead, current leadership has led Bayou La Batre to earn the nickname of Bayou La Trash, the Seafood Trash Dump Capital of Alabama. What a shame.
Update: Longwinded soapbox addition: People have been bitching at me in email, calling me and this blog all sorts of names (Reproachful, condescending, uncaring, negative, does nothing, narrow minded, belligerent Yankee jerk, and some rich slang names not worth wasting the bandwidth to include here ), telling me to stay away from Bayou La Trash and go back where I came from. It appears I am irritating a few people by being "constantly" negative about Bayou La Batre. Good.

Maybe some locals might get fired up enough to talk to others about it and maybe get the ball rolling to get something done to remove the trash. I just wonder though, if the leadership in the south Alabama area, isn't allowing the citizens to wallow in trash while they steal from the citizen's piggybank - money that could have been earmarked to better the trash collection system. Do YOU know where the taxes generated by your community are going? (see BELL)

If you use the LABELS available in this Blog, and review ALL the posts for "Bayou La Batre," you will find that not all of the posts are negative. To say I'm always negative about Bayou La Batre is not true. You will also see that not much has changed during the 13 times I paddled Bayou La Batre in the past 5 years. Yea, people are really working on the Bayou La Trash trash problem all right - 5 years and zero progress, from my viewpoint in a kayak, passing the same shoreline every time.

But, due to the critical feedback, I honestly asked myself, "Are these people right?" Am I being unfair? I concluded it is true that I have the choice to not post photos on this blog which show the waterway in a negative way, like when there is trash in the view or chemicals on the water. I could make it appear that everything is beautiful and clean on every Bayou La Batre kayak trip by choosing what direction to point the camera at. Fact is though, Bayou La Batre (the WATERWAY, not the town) is very trashy and polluted. Why should I try to hide the truth?

I have no agenda on this blog. It is a photo journal of my kayaking trips with my views. What I see of beauty or significance, is shared with you the viewer. What I see that makes me sick is also shared. I want someone in Australia, or anywhere else in the world, with access to the internet, to see what I see from the seat of my kayak. This is kayaking in southern Alabama. Of all the photos posted on this blog, only a small percentage of them have highlighted the problem of trash in the local waterways and it is almost always the same two waterways.

Yes, it is true, I could avoid kayaking those waterways and therefore never post photos of what lurks on their shorelines and water surface. I know which local waterways have problems. The only reason I go back to those problem waterways is to see if all these people who are "working" on the trash problems, have solved anything. I go back to see if these cleanup activities have made a dent in removing the trash. So far, in 5 years, it hasn't made a dent at all on either Dog River or Bayou La Batre, as seen by this kayaker.
A few people keep writing that I should stop complaining and DO something about the trash, like pick it all up by myself. Duh. Just about every time I have kayaked Bayou La Trash, I have picked up trash from the waterway and taken it home to discard properly. Apparently some people want to see huge BAGS of trash draped over the kayak when I return. (Trust me, it wouldn't make a dent.) If you want me to spend ALL day picking up ALL of nearby community's and industry's trash, which would be a non-stop job along a few waterways, you will have to pay me to replace the pay I'd be losing by leaving my job.

Because I do care, in the interest to get the trash removed, I said on this blog and in emails to people on several occasions that if Mobile County (or a through grant) would pay me what I earn in my current job, I would work full time cleaning the shorelines of Mobile County's waterways. This senior citizen would do ALL the hard ass nasty labor, day after day, rain or shine. There is enough trash to justify a full time job. But, the public works department can't even meet their current budget demands so they certainly can't afford to hire me. How many of you who are bitching at me would volunteer to quit your job and become a shoreline garbage man? I just have but one question. Why isn't there a trash cleanup crew working local waterways? The source of this trash needs to be identified and the culprits both fined and taxed in order to pay for a crew to continually pick up the trash.

Why is it prisoners pick up trash from the nicely maintained roadways, but you won't find them on the nasty banks of rivers in places only accessible by boat? Why is it, with so many people out of work in this country and so much trash to pick up, that the US government would rather stimulate the economy with $3.4 million to create an underground turtle tunnel while the trash continues to pile up the waterways? What, too much trash on the surface for turtles to navigate through so they build them a tunnel to go under the trash? 3.4 million dollars would pay for someone to clean the local waterways for their entire lifetime, full time. The leadership in this country has lost touch with reality. (see: Stupid Stimulus Spending). The turtles are all going to die anyway if the water becomes toxic from trash. Don't think we have toxic waters here locally? You might want to check out the facts with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
The negativity you may observe in my Bayou La Batre posts is just reality. The reality will change when the trash in the severely polluted waterway is removed. If the property owners, waterway users, and responsible leaders are waiting on the government or prisoners to clean up their waterway, can you say, Mobile County's "Citarum?" I say, Bayou La Trash. For those getting all irate at my nickname for this waterway, do realize that I am referring to the WATERWAY, not the town. It is coincidence that the two have the same name and I apologize if this name offends you, but if you get in a kayak or canoe and go up and down the shoreline of Bayou La Trash, you will see the "reality," behind the nickname.

If two recent clean up groups (BP Oil Spill shoreline cleanup and the recent Coastal Cleanup) that picked up coastal trash, didn't even make a dent in the problem, who ultimately, will clean up the trash? Certainly we can't just let it grow, allow it to sit there and rot, and release toxins into the water, but we are. Having a 4 hour volunteer waterway cleanup, which don't get me wrong, is a good thing, is like trying to clean the crap out of a heavily used cattle hauling trailer with a squirt gun. After a hard days work, most of the $hit will still be there. Some of the shoreline in Bayou La Batre looks like scenes from a third world slum.

5 years and no change in the amount of trash on the shoreline of Bayou La Trash? Here is the future of Bayou La Trash: DirtyRiver1, DirtyRiver2, DirtyRiver3, DirtyRiver4. No need to worry about the Taliban poisoning our waters. By the time the Taliban take over this country, all the waters in it will be too toxic to drink thanks to Americans polluting it themselves. Sadly, it appears that future generations may only be able to enjoy kayaking by looking at old historical blog photos because the open air trash dumps in our waterways will have become too toxic for people to get near.

I've done no wrong by sharing photos of reality. But I do apologize to those of you who seem offended and are angry at my trenchant attitude toward the trash, some of it toxic, in our waterways. Consider this - if the trash wasn't there, it wouldn't be in my photos either.

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