British Columbia

Chilliwack B.C. man rigs up magnets to rust-cleanse Fraser River

David Elderkin was frustrated by all the scrap metal and garbage left on the shores of the Fraser River after bonfires, so he found an inventive solution.

Volunteer David Elderkin recovered 600lbs of scrap metal, nails from one river access

A push to remove items like this from riverbeds has turned up a motherlode of rust. (Rune MMyreng/Flickr)

David Elderkin was frustrated by all the scrap metal and garbage around the Fraser River, so he created an inventive solution — with powerful magnets.

So far he's gathered six hundred pounds of nails and scrap metal.

That's what Elderkin recovered from just one river access parking lot near Chilliwack, B.C. with his self-styled magnetic rig.

The rig is nothing fancy — just ingenious.

It's all in the magnets 

"I have the magnets outside of a work bucket.  I drag that bucket along the ground and the nails are attracted to the bottom of the bucket," he said.

"I then lift the bucket to another collection bucket, I pull the magnets up off the work bucket and the nails drop."

The magnets are rare earth magnets that Elderkin said that he ordered through an online retailer in China.

"They're the strongest magnets you can buy."

Elderkin said they are about two inches in diameter and have a pulling power of 250 pounds.

David Elderkin rigged up a cleaning device using rare-earth magnets to collect nails and scrap metals from along the Fraser River. (David Elderkin/YouTube)

The hard part was hauling all the full buckets into his Honda Civic.

"It's heavy lifting, each bucket is about 50-60lbs, and I could fit about four or five of them in my car," he said.

"I've stored them at my parents house in Chilliwack. We're going to take them down to the local metal recycling and get a little money for them."

Informal dumping ground

So where are all these nails and scrap metal coming from?

David Elderkin is the co-founder of a volunteer group called "Chilliwack Cleanup". (David Elderkin/Facebook)

"These nails pile up because they're the residue of burning construction material, pallets and garbage," said Elderkin.

During his last visit to the riverside, he said he saw 15 burn piles.

The charcoal gets washed away by the river scattering what's left.

Elderkin said most of the garbage is illegally abandoned, or burned for a bonfire.

"From what I've heard from other campers and other people that use the river, it's a problem up and down the river, let alone all the other recreational sites."

This is typical burn pile where Elderkin recovers nails and scrap metal. This one is near Jesperson, B.C. (David Elderkin/YouTube)

In fact, the garbage problem spurred Elderkin, along with a few others, to start a group — Chilliwack Cleanup — to deal with the mess.

They pick up all sorts of garbage, and he has been sharing his magnet technology with other communities via Facebook.

"If I'm having a down day, I like to go to the river and just pick up nails," he said.

"I know it's helping people, I know it's preventing a lot of pain and suffering out there."

With files from The Early Edition.

To hear the interview, listen to the audio labelled: Chilliwack B.C. man rigs up giant magnet to clean up riverside

This is what 500 lbs of nails and scrap metal looks like. Elderkin has collected 600lbs since creating his rare earth metal cleaning device. (David Elderkin/Facebook)