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Environmental Court Wants to Place a Lid on Litter-Bugs

The Environmental Court of Ouachita Parish and the sheriff's deputies assigned to it, are responsible for enforcing the laws and keeping Louisiana beautiful.

OUACHITA PARISH - We see it everywhere: on the side of the road and hiding in plain sight in places like high grass or weeds.  

Litter.

In parts of Ouachita Parish, garbage piles high.

Thankfully there's an effort to clean up the parish lead by a special team of investigators.

"10-years ago a number of law enforcement agencies came together and said ‘let's do this’ and that's how the Environmental Court came together in Ouachita parish," says Deputy Wayne Heckford.  He’s responsible for keeping Ouachita beautiful, as well as enforcing environmental laws.  Each year, his team issues an average of 800-citations.

"One citation could encompass two or four, or five different violations that are occurring on their property,” says Heckford.  His department oversees ordinances and issues fines for violators who choose to trash our community. If caught you could face an appearance in court and serve jail time.

"It starts off with a minimum of a $100 and can go up to thousands of dollars depending on how much it costs to clean up the property.”

Small trash is one thing, unfortunately it's becoming more common to see  items like electronics and used tires - left to rot along the side of the road.

Deputy Heckford tells us it's not just one tire he's worried about it's piles of tires that accumulate on big lots.

One Richwood lot is a rare example of an adjudicated property, a situation where land is left without ownership, essentially becoming the responsibility of the Parish.

A few blocks away, another property has become an eyesore on the way to the Zoo.

"We may have to use tax payer dollars to clean this place up," points out Heckford.

Since it started, he says the Environmental Court has done a good job of fixing problems like these and putting criminals behind bars. He's hoping recent clean up efforts will help the Environmental Court issue less fines in 2014. He admits it’s not an easy process.

"I would say one of the most frustrating things is the amount of time we spend to get some of these things taken care of," adds Heckford.  

Finally, one way you can help is by using Instagram. If you see trash - take a picture, use the hash-tag #littergram and do your part by throwing it away.

"We’re 10-years into this, and I think the success we've had is just phenomenal, not where we want to be, but we're on the right track."

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