Pollution is a serious concern in the modern industrialized world. However, industry is not its only source. According to Trailblazer Rural Development Institute Biologist Olivia Ward, it can be something as simple as a plastic wrapper thrown on the side of the road.
"We all live in a watershed; an area of land that drains to a single body of water such as a stream, lake, wetland or underground aquifer," Ward said. "When it rains, runoff drains into the water potentially carrying harmful pollutants from the land."
Students from 5th and 6th grade classes at Central Elementary attended a Water Day Field Trip held by Trailblazer RDI at the Lake Bistineau State Park on October 11. Two stations were set up for the students. One covered water quality and testing. Another covered the Giant Salvinia infestation of Lake Bistineau.
Whatever trash and chemicals, such as oil and gasoline residue from vehicles, are near a storm drain will get into the water during rain or flooding, Ward said. Also, people sometimes pour household chemicals, paint or other things down storm drains.
"They think it's an easy disposal, but it isn't. It goes right into the environment," she said. "Why wouldn't you use bleach to clean out your fish tank? Because it would kill your fish. For the same reason, you wouldn't want to expose the outdoor environment to it."
Ward asked students if they knew anyone who threw trash out of their car windows while driving. Almost every student raised their hands and one said, "My mother, my father and my grandma."
Ward suggested bringing a plastic grocery bag along when in the car.
"When somebody's about to throw trash out of the window, so you don't come across as bossy, you can say 'Hey why don't we use this instead?' More than likely they're going to think you are being thoughtful – and you've helped the environment," she said.
Ward told the students many of the potential pollutants, such as pesticides and fertilizer, aren't inherently bad but people's use of them can be. Ward said fertilizer could also worsen problems such as Giant Salvinia.
Lake Bistineau State Park Enforcement Ranger Frank Martin said Giant Salvinia originated in Brazil.
"People put it in their fish ponds and their fish tanks – thought it was real pretty," he said. "When it started getting bigger, they got tired of it and they threw it into the lakes."
Salvinia favors lakes like Bistineau because it is shallow and surrounded by trees.
According to Martin, boats, boat trailers and even wildlife moved the Salvinia around.
"It's free floating in the water and a small amount can double in size in as few as four days," Martin said.
The Salvinia can get up to three feet thick on the water, smothering the life underneath.
"Grass that you have in your yard has been found growing in it," Marin said. "I have found bird nests in this stuff floating on the lake. It's that stable when it gets thick."
According to Ward, Trailblazer RDI has worked with representatives from Bienville, Bossier and Webster Parish police juries, as well as Bodcau, Dorcheat and Saline Soil and Water Conservation districts to form the Bistineau Task Force. The task force works to draw attention to the Giant Salvinia problem and to better Lake Bistineau.
Additional information may also be found at www.trailblazer.org.