Submerged Cars Raise Criminal and Environmental Concerns

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Who’s dragging up what at Bayou St. John? Salvage crews finished the second day of removing cars submerged in Bayou St. John.

“After you go about 2 foot down you can’t see anything,” diver Russell Mitchell said.

For the past two days salvage crews have worked to pull cars from Bayou St. John.

It’s all part of the search for missing teacher Terrilyn Monette; spearheaded by State Rep. Austin Badon.

He wants to make sure the bayou doesn’t hold information critical in her early March disappearance.

“Cars are stolen and they’re dumped out here,” Badon said. “Yesterday we pulled out some cars that didn’t have VIN numbers on the dashboard.” “Some of them didn’t have license plates.”

As many as 20-vehicles were identified last month when workers with Wildlife and Fisheries began searching waterways.

So far, the NOPD says 7 have been identified as stolen.

All vehicles recovered will be thoroughly investigated.

“Many of those cars were reported stolen from many, many year ago,” New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said.

There are other concerns.

The sheer number of submerged vehicles raises questions about environmental impact.

“Some of them are extremely dilapidated conditions,” Jeff Dauzat said. “They’re rusted; they’re falling apart.”

Jeff Dauzat is with the Department of Environmental Quality.

He says cars contain contaminants like mercury, battery acid, transmission and other fluids.

“Oils are contaminates, gas is a contaminant,” Dauzat explained. “It can kill fish it could kill birds, it can kill turtles, snakes; anything that’s in the bayou.”

He says it’s best to pull the cars out before contaminants leak into the bayou.

For some the effort is too little too late.

“Yesterday I remember we did find a relatively old car,” Badon said. “Some of the guys were thinking that car went back to the 70’s.” “But we did find a few cars that were from the later part of the 90’s and early 2000.”

Bayou St. John is maintained and controlled by Orleans Levee District, City Park and other city and state agencies.