Dozens of volunteers gathered at the Verdun Marina Wednesday afternoon to take part in a cleaning blitz.
Some scoured the shores of the St. Lawrence River while others in diving gear disappeared below the surface in search of treasures.
At least that’s how Nathalie Lasselin of Operation Cleanup 360 describes it.
“It’s like a treasure quest really for the divers, because you never know what you’re going to find,” she said.
Among Wednesday’s haul were grocery carts, bicycles, bottles, tires and even a Buddha statue and a closed safe.
“Of course we opened it, but there was nothing interesting in it,” Lasselin said of the safe.
The real goal, however, isn’t really to find treasures but to clean up the river.
Lasselin explained that half of all Quebecers and 80 per cent of Montrealers get their drinking water from the St. Lawrence River.
“If we keep the shoreline clean and if we keep the St. Lawrence clean, that means that the tap water we are going to drink is going to be cleaner,” Lasselin said.
“And you know, what you put inside your body, I think, is pretty important and we can’t survive without fresh water.”
On Wednesday, volunteers retrieved about one tonne of debris from the water and shoreline, which according to Lasselin is an average yield.
The numbers, however, leave her with mixed feelings.
“It’s sad to say, but the more garbage we’re going to find, the happier we will be because that means a better job we have done,” Lasselin said.
“However the more we find, it’s a little bit sad at the same time.”
Lasselin hopes people will be more mindful of their actions and think about what they’re doing when they toss out their trash.
“For me, it’s very important to make people aware that every single action can have a good or bad action on our living environment,” she said.
Operation Cleanup 360, funded in part by the federal government’s climate change initiative, will continue throughout the year in different locations around the island of Montreal.
The next blitz is set for Nov. 16 at Promenade Bellerive in Montreal’s Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough.
— With files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez