On Sunday 15 teams of five on land, 21 divers and 12 paddlers in canoes and kayaks on Sylvan Lake came out to clean up garbage. All the garbage collected was counted and categorized using tally sheets. Every group on land reported cigarette butts as their most picked up item.
People participated for many reasons. Gabriel Conway from École Mother Teresa School was out with Michelle Pilote picking up garbage for volunteer points in a religion class. The main portion of their haul? Cigarette butts.
Jaime Stroud was out with Sylvan Agencies. “Some are doing the cleanup for Canada participACTION points, ” she said. When asked what she was finding the most of, again the answer was: cigarette butts.
A group of four NAIT students came down came down for the second year from the Biological Sciences Program. “It’s something something to do to help out with the environment,” said Gareth McKenzie, who is specializing in environmental sciences. “It’s doing our part where we can.” Within the first hour of the cleanup the team of four had already picked up over 600 cigarette butts.
Cathie McCuaig, executive director at Alberta Underwater Council was present to help with diver’s safety. “Remember to ditch your weights in an emergency but don’t ditch them if you hear a boat,” she cautioned two divers as they headed into the lake.
She explained that visibility is generally about ten to fifteen feet underwater but once divers start digging through the weeds and stirring up the bottom, that can change to inches so you can hear the boat but can’t tell where it’s coming from.
The divers brought up garbage and handed it off to the paddlers to take into shore.
Since the first event in 2003 with only 12 divers from Edmonton, the event has grown and now draws divers from Calgary, Edmonton, Rocky Mountain House, Lacombe and Red Deer.
The event is part of The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, a national conservation initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and World Wildlife Fund that works with communities bordering on bodies of water.