Tuesday, January 10, 2012

01/10/2012 - Eslava Creek

Hi again. Just more documentation of the current state of Mobile's urban waterways.

Here is the scenario.

The City and County have oversight of Mobile's storm water drainage system. They oversee storm water engineering to help keep Mobile from flooding despite the fact that impervious structures continue to be built, wetlands continued to be filled in, and forests continue to be clearcut which means less open ground to absorb the rain. More water now flowing in straight channels means fast water velocity. Trash from a variety of sources ends up in roadside ditches. Heavy rains come and wash the lighter objects (plastic bottles, styrofoam, etc.) downstream. Dozens of miles of these City and County maintained ditches finally drain into about a dozen urban waterways. Moore Creek, Eslava Creek, Halls Mill Creek, One Mile Creek, Chickasaw Creek, Three Mile Creek just to name a few. The velocity of the storm water runoff slows down once it reaches the major waterways where there is tidal influence. There the trash pools forming floating Trashbergs on the surface of the waterways. Trashbergs in the water get moved around by tidal influences. Some trash gets picked up but much of it eventually ends up going into Mobile Bay and then into the Gulf of Mexico. Surface trash gets wind blown and may end up on barrier islands or coastal beaches. Some trash sinks. Some of the trash gets deposited onto adjacent wetlands during high water from rains which is what you see in these photos. When there is no home owner, such as a vacant lot or undeveloped land along the waterway, the trash continues to collect with no one removing it.

Then once or twice a year, many people get gung-ho and have a coastal cleanup. The beaches get a good cleaning of course because beaches are a desirable destination. Relatively few of the wetlands, where the majority of trash accumulates, ever get cleaned. Some of the trash in these wetlands are deposited well inland.

Land Owners of wetlands can't readily access their land so they may not know that public litter (from a variety of sources) goes through the County and City storm water conduit system, unabated. The County and City (THEY) have no measures in place to trap the trash from their storm water system.  THEY have no one regularly working the waterways and adjacent wetlands to remove the trash after rain events. There you have it. THEY have no plan in place to keep their waterways clean.

The City and County and State mow roadsides. There are expensive sweepers that sweep streets and shoulders. Prisoners pick up trash from roadsides. Animal control picks up dead animals (which would quickly decompose on their own). Public works removes public trash and household garbage weekly. But THEY do not remove trash from the waterways and adjacent properties deposited there from rain events and most of that plastic will take a century before it becomes micro-plastic (it doesn't decompose).

Here is where the problem begins. Most of the trash in the wetlands is now on Private Property and continues to accumulate after every heavy rain. It isn't the City or County's job to pick up trash from private property. There are after all, codes and regulations that govern litter on private and commercial properties. Who owns the waterway where some trash still floats around? That opens up a can of worms.

No one wants to assume responsibility for a waterway because of the costs of monitoring and keeping it clean. Removing trash from wetlands is not an easy task either. Environmental Management apparently has no rules restricting the amount of public litter that a City or County can generate through THEIR storm water systems. So the public litter continues and YOUR water (all water is connected) continues to be a public dump.

Getting down to the nitty gritty, it is up to City, County, State and Federal agencies (they all have claim to roadways), to remove the litter from the roadside ditches and keep them clear and free of litter. THEY however, have enacted municipal code making property owners responsible for the roadside trash, further placing the burden on the public rather than take responsibility for areas of roadway that THEY maintain and mow.

Well, then it is up the the City, County, State and Federal agencies to install trash collection devices readily available on the market and proven to work, to trap the trash before it gets downstream and properly dispose of it. That requires money, man hours, and infrastructure and THEY have no funds to keep waterways free of litter. THEY can't even deal with the litter on the roadsides.

But we have laws in place governing litter - it is against the law to litter. Ahem, where is Law Enforcement when you need them? Running red lights with the rest of the public, but they are chasing the same criminals they put behind bars a dozen times already. (Another subject altogether - I can only say I empathize with Law Enforcement because the justice system is broken.)

How about making litterers accountable? Find who is doing the dirty deeds and put them to work removing trash from roadsides, waterways, and wetlands. If they had to get knee deep in muck removing trash, they might think twice before throwing trash out the car window next time. Oh, holding litterers accountable would require law enforcement and they are too busy with violent repeat offenders. Darn. What is the solution?

Since this problem with litter is a nation wide problem, it needs to be resolved at the federal or state level. For starters, if each of these empty plastic bottles was worth a quarter, there would be way less of them on the roadsides and the majority of trash in these photos is plastic bottles. In essence, we need a nationwide Plastic Bottle Bill also known as a container deposit law. Add a 25 cent deposit fee to plastic and aluminum containers. When trash becomes valuable enough to pick it up, there will people who will pick it up. Have you written your congressman lately?

Oops, I forgot, Coke, Nestle, and other bottling companies pay big bucks to political campaigns of Republicans and Democrats so there likely will be no bottle deposit bill while they are in office. What's the solution to this plastic trash problem? Maybe voting out the Republicans and Democrats and voting in the Green Party? I don't know...

Maybe I have it all wrong. Got any ideas on how to solve this?


Eslava Creek

Eslava Creek woes.

Eslava Creek - Looking under someone's dock.

Eslava Creek - Deer Meat?

Eslava Creek - High pressure spray can destined to release it's remaining contents into the water.

Eslava Creek - The trash goes hundreds of feet into the wetland.

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