Lots of beer cans and sunglasses — cleaning up B.C. lakes is a labour of love for these divers

·2 min read
Henry Wang with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans pulls up a bag of garbage he helped collect from the bottom of Sasamat Lake in Belcarra Regional Park. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC - image credit)
Henry Wang with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans pulls up a bag of garbage he helped collect from the bottom of Sasamat Lake in Belcarra Regional Park. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC - image credit)

With the increase in recreation around the Lower Mainland's favourite lakes, there's been an increase in lake trash says the volunteer divers who collect it.

"The trash has definitely increased in all the places we've noticed," said Henry Wang, a diver and co-founder of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans.

In past years, he didn't find any garbage until he was under 35 feet of water in Sasamat Lake in Port Moody, Wang said.

"This year ... the garbage started at 17 feet and I never got past 21 feet of water. I never even reached the previous garbage patch that started much deeper," he told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast.

'62 beer cans and 17 pairs of sunglasses'

Wang's group Cleaner Lakes started out informally in 2013.

"One of my dive partners wanted to dive at Buntzen Lake located in Port Moody and I've never dove in fresh water before so I said. 'Sure, why not?' " he said.

"So we went there and we saw the beer cans, the sunglasses and all of the things. So we carried what we could out in our hands and we went back with some bags and realized we needed more people and more bags."

Since then, they've collected 17,800 kg of trash, working at the behest of different municipalities, B.C. Parks, and Metro Vancouver.

From his years of experience, Wang says each lake has a distinct garbage profile.

Cat Lake in Squamish is popular with people who like to sit on inflatable water craft and relax with a beer — and many of the cans end up in the lake.

"When I go out with a full team, we'll come out with many hundreds of beer cans. I went there alone the other day and there were 62 beer cans and 17 pairs of sunglasses directly underneath the dock," he said. "That's just one dive."

@cleanerlakes/Twitter
@cleanerlakes/Twitter

Albert Dyck Lake in Abbotsford is used for water skiing and wakeboarding and had a line of tires separating the two areas.

"Over the years, the tires kept falling into the lake bottom and they just kept on replacing. As it turns out, we've moved around 500 tires from that lake," he said. "Nobody really thought about it or nobody really knew until we showed up."

With COVID, Wang says there's been an increase in lake garbage — although he says it's not always intentional.

"Some of it is accidental ... nobody means to drop a cellphone," he said.

While Wang and his team of divers are happy to volunteer — it is, he says, a privilege to dive in these different lakes — cleaning the lakes could become an expensive endeavour if everyone was being paid.

"We're happy to go out and do the dive and contribute," Wang said. "It is very expensive [if] the B.C. government needed to spend that money."

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