NEW ORLEANS -- Ed Reppel has been fishing in Bayou St. John for more than 30 years; it's his usual stop on the way to his home.
"I catch mostly bass, perch, a few speckled trout since it is open to Lake Pontchartrain," Reppel said.
Over the years he has noticed more schools of fish in certain areas. That's because dozens of submerged cars have become fixtures for the aquatic life, an advantage for Reppel.
“The fishing around them has been good. They like to hang around them. I can understand them wanting to pull them out,” he said.
So far 25 cars have been pulled from the bayou this year, and Eyewitness News has learned 24 have been linked to open cases of car theft. This week 11 more cars have been identified in the waters.
State Representative Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) said, “We would run the VIN or license plate. We would immediately identify this as a stolen vehicle or part of some insurance scam."
Badon spearheaded the efforts earlier this year during the search for Terrilynn Monette. He said he has to finish the job for himself and her memory.
"When I start a job, I want to finish. Part of the operation looking for Terrilynn was to make sure we eliminate all the vehicles in the water."
The car problem is two-fold: one for police, the other for state environmentalists. The Department of Environmental Quality says the cars are polluting the waters due to all the toxic material in motor vehicles.
Jeff Dauzet, an environmental scientist said, “When you are dealing with cars and trucks you have various forms of pollution. You have gas in the tank, oil in the engine, you have battery acid in the battery."
Some cars in the waters have been here for decades with significant rust. Dauzet says the process of removing them has to be slow and tedious because some can break apart in the process.
Dauzet urges anyone with concerns to notify the state.“When you are dealing with submerged cars, you can't see it. We had no idea they were there," he said.
Rep. Badon said the process to remove more cars will begin some time next week.