Pollution Warning on Lake Pontchartrain

Bevil Knapp (American, b. 1949)
Gelatin silver print
Mat : 16 x 20 in. (40.64 x 50.8 cm)
Sheet : 8 x 10 in. (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
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Lake Pontchartrain is a shallow, brackish estuary in Southern Louisiana that is fed fresh water by seven rivers and bayous, and connects to the Gulf of Mexico between the cities of New Orleans and Slidell. Covering an area of 630 square miles, it is one of the largest wetlands along the Gulf Coast and is an essential habitat for many species of birds and marine life. Between the 1930s and 1970s, Lake Pontchartrain was subjected to increasing levels of pollution from nearby oil and gas wells, chemical manufacturing plants, and urban sewage and wastewater discharges. The lake’s water quality became so poor by the early 1980s that it was no longer safe for humans to swim in or eat fish from it. This 1982 photograph of a warning sign at a Lake Pontchartrain beach was taken by Bevil Knapp when she was a staff photographer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper. Knapp is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and now runs her own photography studio specializing in images of Southern Louisiana’s people, wildlife and landscapes. 

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