Montreal

Volunteers dive for trash, but come up with 'treasure' during St. Lawrence River cleanup

Dozens of locals spent the day on Saturday clad in scuba gear making multiple dives near Lachine to clear debris from the water.

Over 24 hours, organizers hope to haul two tonnes of debris out of the river

Volunteer divers hauled out pounds of garbage and other items (including a long-lost longboard) during the 24-hour river cleanup. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

It's amazing the kinds of things that end up at the bottom of the St. Lawrence River.

"Oh we do find all kinds of stuff. It ranges from some pottery, cameras, bicycles, tires..." said Nathalie Lasselin, the underwater explorer and filmmaker who organized a 24-hour cleanup of the river on Saturday.

"We found gates. We found bottles — different kinds of plastics. It's amazing: all that stuff that is pretty much everywhere in the streets, and with the wind, goes straight into the river," added Jonathan Théorêt, another volunteer.

These two, along with dozens of others, spent the day clad in scuba gear making multiple dives down to the riverbed near Lachine to clear debris from the water.

Dozens of volunteers were making dives on Saturday to help haul garbage out of the river. (Submitted by Nathalie Lasselin)

"For me, it's like being a child. I just go down, and I see that as treasure, but bad treasure to be removed. So, each time you remove something, you always look for the next one you can find," said Lasselin.

This isn't the first time she's undertaken such a project.

"We did a cleanup last year, and we spent something like five, six hours. And we removed 750 pounds of debris."

For her, it's an important way she can help keep her environment clean.

"This is my tap water," she said. "So that means, basically, what I can do today is to remove all the debris, all the plastic debris that can eventually go into tiny, tiny particles, and go into my water."​​​​​​

It's not just garbage that Lasselin and the others have pulled from the river.

"I did find a longboard. And you know what is amazing? ... Someone is looking for that longboard!"

She said Théorêt spoke to the owner of that very longboard earlier, with the young man telling them the story of how he lost his board in the water three years ago and hasn't seen it since.

They've already been in touch to return the man's board, though it's not in pristine condition.

By the end of the 24 hours, organizers hope to be able to say they've hauled two tonnes of debris out of the river.

With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours