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Second annual Great Lake Cleanup a rousing success

More than 800 lbs of garbage pulled from Whistler lakes

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Golf balls, beer bottles, lighters, cameras, sunglasses and the seat from a classic car — those were just a few of the things pulled out of Whistler's lakes during the second annual Great Lake Cleanup.

"It was a beautiful seat," said Eric Wight, of Backroads Whistler, one of more than 60 volunteers who came out for the event.

"I started looking for the car at that point figuring if I found a seat, I should find a car."

Wight never found his classic car — just a whole bunch of garbage.

But at an event like the Great Lake Cleanup, garbage is good too.

Prior to the event, Wight used sonar equipment to scan the lakes looking for some of the bigger items.

"I found the deepest part of (Alta) lake surprisingly clean," Wight said.

"I found nothing... I was disappointed and happy all at the same time. I wanted to find pirate treasure."

But if there was sunken treasure at the bottom of one of Whistler's lakes, chances are Wight would have been beaten to it.

Ten trained divers from "Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans" came up for the event, and pulled 800 pounds of garbage out of Alta and Lost Lakes alone.

"We found the usual collection of golf balls and pop bottles, beer bottles, beer cans, that kinda stuff, so that's pretty normal," said Henry Wang, who led the group of divers.

"It's always nice to just get plastic and stuff like that out of the waterway, because they do disintegrate over time and that leeches right into the water table."

The group has done garbage-collecting dives at a dozen different lakes in the province, recovering more than 6,600 pounds of garbage.

"So that's over three metric tonnes that we've pulled out since November of 2013," Wang said.

"We're always diving anyway, so it's always nice to go for a dive and get garbage out of the water."

The group consists of about 25-30 divers who operate on a volunteer basis.

Anyone who'd like to donate to their cause can do so at www.youcaring.com/cleanerlakes.

Having the divers on hand made a huge difference for the cleanup effort, Wight said.

"Last year it was pretty funny watching all of us trying to outdo each other finding cans and debris and holding our breath at 50 years old trying to swim like the fish we used to be," he said with a laugh.

"These divers showed up and they had all these tanks and all this gear and all this signalling going on and we're just going 'Oh, this is easy.'"

Wight would like to see a similar cleanup happen on the River of Golden Dreams — where he said he recovered 96 inflatable toys this weekend.

"Some of the young adults who are floating that river are throwing their garbage all over the place," Wight said.

"So hopefully the floaty-toy community can police themselves and maybe even do a run down the river and clean up."

But Wight's dreams of sunken treasure aren't dashed yet, as Green Lake is next on the agenda.

"I don't know what we're going to find in Green Lake... maybe I'll go fishing there with my scanner and see what I can find," Wight said.

"There's bound to be something. Significant treasure."

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