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Big Doings in the Big Easy

Big Doings in the Big Easy

For the last 49 years, the Food and Beverage Environmental Conference (FBEC) has been held in various cities throughout North America. It is the premier conference for environmental professionals working in the food and beverage industry. From its inception, conference leaders made a commitment to always leave the conference host city better than they found it by keeping Tuesday afternoons of the conference open for attendees to perform community service. For the last five years, Environmental Standards’ Account Executive, Ann Marie Gathright, has chaired the community outreach event. Under her leadership, volunteers have packaged meals at a senior center, built handicap accessibility ramps, groomed horses and ponies at a horse rescue center and much more.

This year, the conference was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, the city of soul-stirring jazz, exceptional food and impromptu second line parades. Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF) was the recipient of the 2019 FBEC good works, both through donations and a trash pickup along the water. The Pontchartrain Basin is a 10,000-square mile watershed that includes 16 Louisiana parishes and four Mississippi counties. It is one of the largest estuarine systems in the Gulf of Mexico containing over 22 essential habitats. LPBF is devoted to returning Lake Pontchartrain’s water quality to acceptable standards for use as an economic and recreational resource. Thanks to LPBF, in 2006, the lake was removed from the Impaired Water Bodies List, allowing people to enjoy swimming there once again.

Ann Marie was joined by colleagues, Erin Rodgers and Shaun Gilday as well as representatives from Leprino Foods, Campbell Snacks, Johnsonville Sausages, Amazon, Geosyntec, Mapistry, Hach, Endeavor EHS and Montrose Environmental Group. As always, volunteers enjoyed camaraderie and fun while being of service. Prior to the trash pickup, volunteers were treated to a tour of the New Canal Lighthouse Museum and Education Center by LPBF Education and Outreach Director, Laine Farber. Severely damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the lighthouse was restored by LPBF and houses an original Fresnel lens believed to have occupied the lighthouse during the early 1900s. During the tour, Laine provided the group with a history of how the adjacent New Basin Canal was constructed and described how the canal’s workforce consisted mainly of Irish immigrants. Desperate for work, they arrived in droves with the hopes of a better future. Crossing swamps and wetlands during construction, laborers succumbed to malaria, yellow fever and cholera. Their pay? $1 a day. Over the six years of construction from 1832-1838, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 Irish immigrants perished to build the 60-foot wide, 6-mile long passageway.

Erin Rodgers and Shaun Gilday Environmental Standards
caution deep water

A history nerd, Ann Marie recommends the following books if you’d like to learn more about the construction of the New Basin Canal, the lighthouse and the history of New Orleans.

Bienville’s Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans by Richard Campanella

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry

Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford

Please consider making a donation to the LPBF, and save the date for FBEC’s 2020 conference, which will be held April 5-8, 2020, in Palm Springs, California, at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the conference promises to be golden.

NOLA Environmental Standards consulting

Ann Marie Gathright

Account Executive