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Diving for debris: Kingston divers pull garbage out of Lake Ontario on day of cleanup, awareness

Our water sources are some of the most important resources we have in the world, so divers and volunteers came together in Kingston to clean up Lake Ontario’s shoreline on Saturday.

It is all part of a global effort to clean up waterways.

Pulling a large truck tire from the water, volunteer Derek Evans says he is not sure how long it has been at the bottom of Lake Ontario. It’s filled with zebra mussels and mud, but the rubber has the potential to be a serious issue.

"This is at least 50 pounds," Evans says. "It definitely would be a lot of damage to the fish and the wildlife in the water."

Getting this tire, and other garbage, is part of a massive project called, 'Kingston Waters Clean Up.' More than 70 divers, kayakers and shorelines volunteers are bagging up garbage to keep it out of the water and drawing awareness to the issue, explains organizer Guillaume Courcy.

"Divers are sometimes the first and only witnesses of underwater pollution," Courcy says. "We’re going (down) there, we see it. Who’s going to pick it up if it’s not us?"

Courcy says Lake Ontario is a vital resource for the city, and garbage can be a serious problem. 

"(Garbage) will sink down and it will start disintegrating, especially plastics," he says. "Plastics will create microplastics and this will get into the food chain."

Courcy says the debris can come from anywhere - from people tossing garbage, to tires that were used as bumpers on docks and boats.

In a few hours, more than two dozen tires have been pulled from the water. The larger items, along with smaller ones like bottles and cans, will be carefully recorded and weighed. That information will be passed along to a foundation called the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI AWARE), which tracks similar information around the world and lobbies governments and businesses about the issue. 

In its 4th year, more than 1,400 kilograms of garbage has been pulled out of Lake Ontario in that time.

Michelle Clarabut, with the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes, says creating an event the public can come to helps people witness what comes out of the water. 

"Think about what’s in the water, think about what’s impacting the ecosystems we live in," Clarabut explains. "The Great Lakes are a fantastic fresh water resource, but they are threatened."

Volunteer diver Adele Leonard says the experience is great, but seeing what is down there is difficult. 

"I’m seeing a lot of cans and bottles and stuff that people might take out for a night out near the water," she explains. "It’s kind of, I guess, pretty sad."

With no tally yet for what’s pulled out of the water Saturday, Courcy says anything is a success in his eyes. 

"The more we pull out, the less there is out there." Top Stories

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