The volunteer crew of scuba divers zipped up their wetsuits, strapped on their oxygen tanks and took the plunge, diving to the bottom of Lake Beauport, about 25 kilometres north of Quebec City.
The mission was clear: clean up the bottom of the lake, and altogether, the divers removed 125 lbs of trash.
The effort was the first of its kind for the lake, but not the first for Aquarium du Québec, an organization that works to conserve the province's aquatic ecosystems.
Marie-Pierre Lessard was one of the six divers who took the plunge on Friday.
"We found a lot of plastic glasses, some bottles and t-shirts, some glasses and also some nautical objects like rope and paddles," said Lessard, who is the conservation director at Aquarium du Québec.
Clearing out the trash is a key part of keeping any body of water healthy, she said.
Lessard was not surprised by the common items found under the water and said that since starting the initiative in 2018 her team has found hazardous materials like car batteries in other bodies of water.
In 2019, 500 lbs of trash was removed from the shores of Lake Saint-Joseph in the Capitale-Nationale region, while in 2020, 190 lbs of garbage was cleared from the Duchesnay park tourist site near the same lake.
"It's really dangerous for the environment, and [lakes] are really not the place for these kinds of objects," Lessard said, adding she hopes seeing the trash haul will make the public more sensitive to their relationship to the waters around them.
Isabelle Côté, director of leisure, culture and community life at the city of Lac-Beauport — which helped organize the clean up — echoed Lessard's message about raising awareness.
Seeing what is dug out from the lake after the snow and ice thaw will help locals see what needs to be done to protect the natural environments they inhabit, said Côté.
Lac-Beauport resident Iris Chabout took notice.
Chabout brought her two children for the learning experience. She said she wants her children to see first-hand what lurks beneath the surface of their water.
"We came to make them aware of what we can find in our lake. We love the lake and it's good to see what's under the water too," she said.
Chabout said she too isn't surprised either by the kinds of items collected.
"We have to be mindful of our belongings when we come to enjoy the lake," she said.
"If we want to continue having such good access to the lake, we have to be more careful."