Toronto

Boat cleanup targets vehicle carcasses, trash dumped over Scarborough Bluffs

It's "absurd," but the organizer of a major cleanup effort says people have been using the Scarborough Bluffs, one of the most beautiful parts of the city, as a garbage dump.

Effort also looking for trash under the water's surface

The Scarborough Bluffs has become a 'dumping ground' says Giovanni Cautillo, executive director of the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association. (CBC)

It's "absurd," but the organizer of a major cleanup effort says people have been using the Scarborough Bluffs, one of the most beautiful parts of the city, as a garbage dump.

On Tuesday morning, volunteers used a flat-bottomed boat to gain access to a difficult-to-reach stretch of Lake Ontario shoreline that's littered with vehicle carcasses, tires and shopping carts.

"It's a dumping ground," Giovanni Cautillo, executive director of the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association (GTSWCA), told CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

"People pitch stuff off of there because of the sheer cliff," he explained. "The Scarborough Bluffs are a wonder to be at. Why anyone would want to dump at it — it's just absurd."

Garbage can affect drinking water

Lake Ontario is Toronto's main source of drinking water, "so our biggest emphasis is making sure the water that flows through our pipes is not contaminated and polluted," Cautillo said, adding that the garbage also affects the fish and wildlife that inhabit the lake.

The "Clean Water Our Future" shoreline cleanup is funded by the GTSWCA, a group who also bears the cleanup's title as their motto.

A tractor pulls a car chassis out of the ground during a shoreline cleanup at the Scarborough Bluffs on Tuesday. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

They have teamed up with the Toronto Region and Conservation Authority (TRCA) on the project, along with The Living City Foundation — an organization which raises funds for TRCA projects.

The boat brought the volunteers and a tractor to the narrow shores of East Point Park, where they collected two car chassis, tires, snow fencing and a boatload of rusted metal debris. 

The city even donated metal detectors to the cause. 

The wheels of a discarded shopping cart stick out of the beach at East Point Park in the Scarborough Bluffs area. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

"It's a dream come true to have the opportunity to do this," Judith Reda, The Living City Foundation's partnerships engagement officer, told CBC Toronto on a break from the cleanup. 

"It makes me really happy that we're getting this done today. Hopefully, this is the first of many more to come."

Though some people may find it odd that a group of construction contractors are taking the lead on an environmental cleanup, Cautillo says clean water "is what we live for." 

"It's the nature of our business," he says. "Delivering clean, potable water."

The cleanup crew consisted of a dozen or so volunteers from these three organizations, but it was not open to the public because of safety issues.

Volunteers dig up garbage during the 'Clean Water Our Future' shoreline cleanup at East Point Park on Tuesday. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

Cleanup just a first step

Today's effort was preliminary, Cautillo says, and was also a way to take inventory to assess if a barge or backhoe will be needed to extract the larger pieces of trash.

What is retrieved will be recycled or sent to a landfill "where it should have been in the first place," he says.  

Giovanni Cautillo is executive director of the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association, which is funding the 'Clean Water Our Future' shoreline cleanup on Tuesday. (CBC)

"This morning when you woke up, and you took a shower, and you had your morning coffee — did you think about where your water came from?" Cautillo asked. "Think about areas in the world where they don't have this luxury ... and we take the lake for granted. So much so that we dump raw effluent into it. We drop sewage into Lake Ontario. Which is mind boggling."

Cautillo says the second stage of the project will also focus on the "microbial side" in order to address chemicals and sewage that is being dumped into the lake.

Volunteers collect garbage from East Point Park at the Scarborough Bluffs on Tuesday during the 'Clean Water Our Future' cleanup. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

With files from Metro Morning, Nick Boisvert

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