It may be cultural. It may be heritage but once cold weather and or holidays hit, a segment of the Louisiana population has a taste for wild game such as raccoon.
Generally, this is not a problem but the Louisiana Democracy Project is continuing to issue warnings to its constituents to avoid eating wild life from the Devil Swam/Bayou Baton Rouge areas. “During the summer an advisory was issued by the Department of Health & Hospitals, along with the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Wildlife & Fisheries warning people not to eat fish or crawfish from the area. “We know many people enjoy eating raccoons and raccoons enjoy eating fish and crawfish. We think it is important to warn everyone to avoid not only the seafood but the seafood eating mammals as well”, said Stephanie Anthony, LDP president and chair of Pray for Our Air program.
Paul Orr of the Lower Mississippi River Keepers agrees that people should not eat largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill, or raccoons from the area. Samples show HCB hexachlorobenzene, HCBD hexachlorobutadine, PCB polychorinateed biphenyls, arsenic, lead and mercury in the fish.
There have been advisory’s out since 1993 telling citizens not to drink, swim or play in the water because of contamination. Whereas some citizens around Alsen, Baker and even the Cedarcrest area of East Baton Rouge Parish say they are vaguely aware of contamination, they do not relate this knowledge to fish-eating mammals.
Devil Swamp covers over 8 miles and more than 6,000 acres of land. It is bounded on the north by Hall Buck Marine Road on the east, by the bluff and the Baton Rouge Barge Harbor and on the south and west by the Mississippi River.
During the question and answer period after a presentation to the Green Army meeting at Greater King David Church, award winning scientist Wilma Supra remarked that there was not legislative funding to replace signs damaged or destroyed, to warn citizens about hunting, fishing or swimming in contaminated waters. During the 1980s then State Representative Joseph A. Delpit authored legislation requiring signs posting to warning of water contamination in English, Vietnamese, and Spanish. Today the population in Baton Rouge is 54.98 percent Black, 3.32 percent Hispanic and 3.48 percent Asian. That correlates to about 126,089 Black, 7,974 Asian and 7606 Hispanic equaling over 60 percent of the population.
Veteran environmentalist Willie Fontenot is said to have named Bayou Baton Rouge, decades ago. He attests to the contamination in the area. He said Devil Swam area is so contaminated that only the devil would enjoy it at this point.
Anthony said the Louisiana Democracy Project does not ordinarily tackle water issues but they see this is a true grassroots issue affecting the quality of life for citizens whose lives they touch on other issues. They encourage interested parties to contact them at 225-907-1459 or the Department of Health and Hospitals 888-293-7020.
Feature photo by Jed Postman, taken from SeriousEats.com