Meet Brady Skaggs, Water Quality Program Director of the Pontchartrain Conservancy in Louisiana. The organization’s mission is to drive environmental sustainability and stewardship across its region through scientific research, education, and advocacy.
In this episode of Making Waves with WWETT, we spoke with Brady about the importance of education in building sustainable coastal areas, advocating for centralized wastewater treatment, and more.
Here is a sneak peek into the discussion:
WWETT: Can you tell us about your journey to the Pontchartrain Conservancy?
Skaggs: I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and did my undergrad at Georgia Tech. Grew up swimming. Had the opportunity and a fantastic time swimming for the university. After graduating, I realized, “Oh my gosh, there’s nothing more I can do with swimming because it doesn’t pay.” So I decided to pursue graduate school and came here to Tulane where I studied under a professor who was both a former swimmer and also interested in the intersection of public health and engineering, so I got to study water chemistry—specifically as it relates to disinfection technologies. And all of this happened—when I was supposed to begin my studies—three days before Hurricane Katrina.
WWETT: Can you give a little background on the coastal crisis down there, and the work you’re doing to combat it?
Skaggs: Our Coastal Sustainability program is certainly working to combat a lot of those issues. In short, we have leveed the Mississippi River to protect people and property across Southeast Louisiana. The leveeing also allows for maintenance of the waterway related to navigation. But that process has interrupted the natural deposition of sediment into the wetlands, so we have historically and currently are combating wetland loss—and looking for ways to implement projects that restore a lot of that wetland.
WWETT: I know you do a lot with pollution and tracking it; could you tell me more about that?
Skaggs: Yes, in the Water Quality program, there are a variety of things we’re working on. One is a routine, long-term monitoring program that’s been going on since 2001. We collect weekly samples, and it’s been interesting to be able to view that data over time. That program allows us to do other cool things to help address sources of pollution. On the south shore, we’re concerned with stormwater contamination or contact with sanitary sewer contributions. On the north shore, we have a lot of on-site wastewater systems that are exempted from EPA or Clean Water Act requirements, so we provide the service of inspection and data collection and helping folks understand their systems so they can get them performing optimally.
WWETT: How can people learn more about the Pontchartrain Conservancy?
Skaggs: For your listeners interested in our organization and what we do, we recently released an app that presents our data to the public. Certainly if you are visiting the New Orleans area, that’s a great tool to have.
Listen to the full episode here