The rain that marked the end of a soggy December might cause the city to ask for another adjustment to the litter trap at Eslava Creek.

The more than a foot of rain that fell in December contributed to a large amount of litter flowing down Eslava Creek. While the trap caught some of the flowing litter, it also caught a lot of vegetation, which allowed the litter to bypass the trap.

“Since the litter trap has been installed, they’ve been making minor adjustments to ensure the trap collects more litter and less vegetation,” city spokeswoman Laura Byrne said. “As soon as conditions were safe following the storms, public works crews were able to remove the litter and release the vegetation. They are considering making changes to the baskets to avoid this problem in the future.”

Overall, Byrne said, the trap has been “very successful” at keeping litter out of Dog River. In the month of December alone, Mobile saw 12.38 inches of rain and had eight days with more than a half inch. The greatest 24-hour period of rain came between Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, when Mobile received 4.5 inches.

The rain came mostly in spurts the week of Dec. 25, with 1.78 inches of rain falling Dec. 21 and 4.03 inches falling Dec. 23. A total of 1.84 inches also fell Dec. 30.

(Photo/Courtesy of Rob Nykvist) One of Mobile’s two litter traps installed in the Dog River watershed appears filled with debris last year.

(Photo/Courtesy of Rob Nykvist) One of Mobile’s two litter traps installed in the Dog River watershed appears filled with debris last year.

The amount of rain contributed to the problems with the trap, resident Travis Raynor said. Raynor, who owns a home near Dog River, said he has an idea that could help the city deal with the problem in the future.

“There’s still some tweaking that needs to be done,” Raynor said. “When we know rains are coming, there needs to be crew out there. Ten or 12 hours before, the city can clean it up. The city needs to be cleaning this thing.”

Dog River Clearwater Revival President Claire Wilson, who lives near the trap’s location, said the amount of rain over a short period complicated the issue. According to the National Weather Service, before Dec. 20, Mobile had seen only about 2 inches of rain during December. That means 10 inches fell in the last 11 days of the month.

“It picked up a ton of debris,” Wilson said of the trap. “It picked up a ton of trash too.”

Some of the changes being considered for the trap include deeper baskets, Wilson said. Deeper baskets would allow the debris to build up while also catching litter. Wilson said the city might also ask the Army Corps of Engineers to allow it to close the the trap’s navigable gap with a detachable boom. The boom would allow the city to close the gap whenever there’s a chance for a major rain event and then reopen it.

Another issue, Wilson said, is Bolton Branch, another source of litter that flows into Dog River, bypassing the trap.

Raynor said he has no real axe to grind and he understands the problem is much bigger than just the trap. He and others have offered up another suggestion as well: better enforcement of the litter law already on the books.

“If we enforce the litter laws, we won’t have a litter trap issue,” Raynor said.

Baykeeper Casi Callaway agrees, calling the trap an “end of the pipe” solution.

“It’s a last resort,” she said. “We have to do something real. Enforcement of the law is a great first step.”

Just driving around, Callaway said, she can see one section of the 15-month-old law is not being followed. She said many retailers and other commercial establishments haven’t yet come into compliance with the ordinance’s requirement there be enough trash cans in their parking lots to handle the number of customers.

“Trash cans are the simplest addition that would change the dynamic,” Callaway said. “It’s not happening and it’s been over a year.”

She said people responsible for the litter should be held accountable and even those not responsible for the litter could do more to help.
“Every single Mobilian and Baldwin County resident’s number one New Year’s resolution should be no more littering and to pick it up when you see it,” Callaway said.

In addition to an ordinance and litter traps, the city also has two litter boats. The boats have been fully operational since early December and run on Mondays and Tuesdays, Byrne said. A larger boat runs in Dog River and a smaller jon boat, adapted to haul litter, runs on Three Mile Creek. Byrne said the boats have picked up about 92, 30-gallon trash bags of litter since becoming operational.

The city purchased the first litter boat as part of a consent decree with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. The second boat was donated to the city.

Wilson said the city is not ignoring the problem and has been working to make a difference with the trap and the boats. In addition to the city-owned boats, the Dog River group has enlisted Raynor’s help. Wilson said Raynor will be paid to take his boat and pick up trash on a regular basis.