Shoreline cleanup comes through Muskoka
This mound of garbage was collected on Sept. 15 during the Ril Lake portion of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. It’s amazing and disappointing how much accumulates over a year.
MUSKOKAN - There’s a whole lot of garbage in Canada’s waterways.
Statistics from the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup report that in 2011, their workers collected 351,238 discarded cigarettes and cigarette filters, 110,018 food wrappers and containers, and 71,200 plastic bags. Some of that debris can be found in the lakes and rivers around Muskoka.
To help clean up the water, a group of volunteers on Ril Lake, just south of Lake of Bays, took part in a shoreline cleanup of their own. Part of the annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, the event was held Sept. 15 and brought together a sizable group of enthusiastic volunteers.
Casey Cook, site co-ordinator for the cleanup at Ril Lake, said that while Ril Lake is fairly clean already, it’s important to remain vigilant to potential water pollutants.
“If we contaminate the water it will contaminate not just the water itself but everything that lives within it and around it — that includes ourselves,” Cook said. “We’re putting our own health at risk by not being vigilant of the health of water and the area around us.”
Ril Lake first held a shoreline cleanup in 2008. The lake is one of several within Muskoka that have yearly cleanups.
Proponents of lakeshore cleanups have pointed out that they can be financially important for property owners in Muskoka. Real estate values in the region are directly tied to the quality of the environment, and a degraded shoreline or lake would likely mean a decrease in a shoreline property’s value.
Along with the environmental and financial benefits of the cleanup, Cook said taking part in a lake cleanup can be a learning experience.
“Knowledge is education and education is knowledge, and you’re basically in a classroom outside,” explained Cook. “You learn so much that you can pass on to family members or anyone, and it doesn’t matter how old you are — a lot of people do it as a family unit.”
The Canada-wide cleanup is led by the Vancouver Aquarium, which collects statistics from all the shoreline cleanups that occur across the country. Since its inception, the program has steadily grown. In 2003, an estimated 771 kilometres of shoreline were cleaned while last year 3,144 kilometres were cleaned.
Jill Dwyer, manager of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at the Vancouver Aquarium, said garbage in the water can be detrimental to the health of both people and animals.
“When shoreline litter gets into the water animals can ingest it,” said Dwyer. “Then they falsely think they’re full and won’t get the nutrients they need or they just choke on it. They can also get entangled in it.
“Some things that enter the water can leak toxic chemicals, which would be problematic not only for animals but for people who may depend on that waterway for drinking water.”
The annual data collected is used to reveal trends in the common causes of shoreline litter. It can also help reveal the effect on litter of things like municipal plastic bag bans.
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup officially started on Sept. 15 and runs until Sept. 23. Everyone is encouraged to take part to help pick up garbage around their local shoreline.
“It’s really open to everyone and anyone, and I think it empowers people.,” Dwyer said. “They see they have actually made a difference, an immediate difference, to their local shoreline and when you think about the cumulative effect of people all across Canada on the third week of September cleaning up their shoreline — it’s huge.”
For more information on the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, or to register a local shoreline, visit shorelinecleanup.ca.
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