This time last year, they pulled a truckload of garbage out of the Ottawa River.
On Wednesday, it seemed that history had repeated itself.
“We found steak knives, a driver’s license, shoes, a Petro-Points card, a clock, and a fishing line reel,” said Ottawa Police Marine Unit dive site supervisor Const. Brent MacIntyre. “But I think the best one is this top of a fire hydrant. I don’t know how that got in there.”
Police also pulled out a traffic barrier and a bicycle as they kicked off the 16th annual TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup in the Ottawa River.
The nationwide event, held Sept. 19-27, will see 75,000 people in hundreds of communities collect about 150,000 kilograms of litter from Canada’s shorelines and waterways, said Angela Griffiths, director of conservation with the Vancouver Aquarium.
In Ottawa so far, more than 700 people have registered 20 projects.
The situation is getting more serious, said Griffiths. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an area of garbage measuring thousands of square kilometers in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – is a good example, she said. “We believe that 80 per cent of that garbage is from the land. It’s important to do the cleanups – any shoreline eventually ends up in the ocean.”
The garbage is a hazard to marine life – every year, over one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles die through entanglement and ingestion of litter.
“This dive cleanup is important because it shows what’s underneath the surface,” Griffiths said.
Other notable things that have been pulled out across the country include a blown-up safe, a motorcycle, a wedding dress and a voodoo doll, said Griffiths.
“We have to change how we use the waterway,” said MacIntyre.
MacIntyre said the river is so cloudy, there is only about two feet of visibility.
Wednesday’s cleanup is “only the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “We’re talking about a massive amount of garbage here.”
Volunteers can register a project or join in a cleanup at tdgcsc.ca.