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A rusted bicycle. A deteriorated video camera. Two algae-bearing steel barriers. An array of muddied beer bottles.
It was a sad sack of loot for the team of divers scanning the bottom of the Ottawa River.
“Some people just toss things into the water, thinking it’s out of sight, out of mind. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that camera’s battery is toxic, and those toxins are leaking into the water,” said Eric Solomon of the Vancouver Aquarium.
He, alongside a five-man Ottawa Police dive crew, was at the Ottawa River at the foot of Parliament Hill yesterday to kick off the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
The cleanup, which began 15 years ago at the Vancouver Aquarium, aims to remove about 100,000 kilograms of litter this year from more than 1,000 shorelines and waterways across the country—including 27 sites in the Ottawa region.
“The idea is to get grassroots momentum. People show up for a few hours to pick up litter. Not only do you feel you’ve made a difference, you actually have made a difference,” said Matt Fortier of TD Friends of the Environment, which sponsors the cleanup.
But the trash volunteers will be targeting won’t be the rusted bikes and coat hangers the diving crew pulled from the river. “The biggest issue is really the small stuff that people don’t even think is garbage,” Mr. Solomon said.
In fact, last year’s cleanup crews collected more than 270,000 cigarettes and cigarette filters. These filters, which absorb a variety of chemicals from the cigarette, line Canadian shorelines. Come rainfall, they’re washed into the water, where the toxins leach, Mr. Solomon said.
“That’s why (it’s important) to clean the shorelines, to get the junk before it goes into the water,” he said.
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup runs until Sept. 28. People interested in helping can visit www.vanaqua.org/cleanup to register.