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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Cornell student one of many volunteers to help clean up Lafourche

Cornell student one of many volunteers to help clean up Lafourche

Mathews, LA – Among the 1000 or so volunteers who signed up to participate in the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program’s (BTNEP) annual Bayou Lafourche Cleanup was a Ph.D. student from a place located nearly 1400 miles away.

According to Cornell student Melanie Sand, the opportunity to participate in a cleanup effort that benefits Lafourche Parish residents was one she couldn’t pass up.

“Once I got to know what BTNEP and the Bayou Lafourche Water District does and attended some of their meetings, I just wanted to come out and volunteer,” said the 29-year-old native of Kokomo, Indiana.

Sand, who received her undergraduate degree from Ball State before earning her Master’s degree at New Orleans, is currently performing work for her dissertation related to city and regional planning at Cornell.
Cornell is an Ivy League university based in Ithaca, NY.

“I have been here since last fall and am working on a project where I am learning about how Native American communities in the bayous experience coastal and post-disaster planning,” Sand said. “I am also taking a look at larger issues of coastal erosion and environmental degradation.”

Sand said she was referred to Lafourche Parish Government’s sanitation foreman Chris Babin by Alma Robichaux from BTNEP.

Babin, who has served as a Bayou Lafourche Cleanup site captain for several years, helped organize the successful launching of several boats to pickup trash along Bayou Lafourche on Saturday morning.
Babin said he enjoys volunteering in the yearly effort, which coincides with the annual Household Hazardous Materials Collection Day held at the Mathews Government Complex.

Having grown up Indiana, Sand said the biggest differences she’s noticed between the Midwest and south are environmental in nature.

“Our economy is driven by farming things like corn and soybeans, whereas down here things are more driven around the water and the oil and gas industry. I must say I have had a great experience in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.”

In all, about 20 people rode on the various boats to collect an assortment of trash ranging from plastic bottles to full-sized tires and light bulbs. Although more than 1,000 volunteered to pick up trash along Bayou Lafourche from Napoleonville to Golden Meadow, either walking along the banks or using pirogues to scan the waters.

Officials with BTNEP and the Bayou Lafourche Water District deemed the fourth-annual cleanup effort a success thanks to the large outpouring of volunteer help that worked up and down the entire 106-mile stretch of Bayou Lafourche on Saturday.

Each year, about 25 tons of trash and recyclables are picked up during the event.

Cornell student Melanie Sand uses a grabber to pick up a piece of trash during the Bayou Lafourche Cleanup Saturday.