One of our own… Willie Fontenot

Some of you know Willie Fontenot, one of our FOA Board members. Willie worked in State Government for many years as a citizen’s advocate, giving a voice to many small groups who were generally overlooked by the “system”.

Willie is retired now and dealing with some health problems, but that has hardly slowed him down. He was recently recognized, along with six other Louisianians in a book of  “American Environmental Leaders From Colonial Times to the Present.” Willie has helped people push government officials to protect the environment for more than 35 years.
[For a complete article on this subject, go to]

Willie also serves on the Citizens Advisory Committee on the Gulf of Mexico representing Environmental interests from Louisiana and continues to press agencies to recognize the connections between local problems in states from Louisiana up to Missouri and the health of our coastal waters. He has forgotten more about environmental problems than most of us will ever know. But he remembers a lot more than he forgets, and he continues to remind our leaders that there are problems down home that need to be addressed.

Two of Willie’s pet peeves are mercury contamination from natural gas flow meters in or near wetlands, and the changes in sediment load of the Mississippi River since the 72 major dams were built along the upper Missouri River Basin.

Apparently, several thousand of the mercury-based flow meters are still in use across the state, and each one contains several pounds of mercury. For the past 80 years, regular maintenance of these meters consisted of replacing the mercury contents and much of the waste mercury was simply spilled onto the ground or into the water near the meters. Along with natural sources and other human-generated sources of industrial mercury, the waste from these meters moves up the food chain and contaminates much of our aquatic food in many areas.

Willie also says that part of our coastal land loss is directly connected to the collection of sediment behind the dams in the mid west – sediment that would have come down the Mississippi to replenish the coast in earlier days. Of course, the channelization of the Mississippi has prevented what sediment that does come down from getting to the right places, but the reduced load is also a big part of the problem.

Willie has agreed to write more on these two subjects and others that still nag at him in his restless retirement, so drop a note here if you have an opinion on these or other environmental problems and we’ll get Willie to enlighten us all.

More later on this subject…