While few other lakes in the United States can compete with Lake Tahoe’s clear waters, the country’s second deepest lake does have a trash problem. To address this, California nonprofit Clean Up the Lake has recently organized a team of scuba divers to remove debris from the lake’s whole 72-mile shoreline.
More than 25,000 pounds of trash removed
The team was tasked to remove litter from the lake’s first 25 feet beneath the surface. After about 3856 volunteer hours across a period of 49 dive days, the divers recovered more than 25,000 pounds of trash from the lake. Among the collected debris were engagement rings, decades-old Nikon cameras, boat parts, wallets, and plastic bottles.
“We filled our travel trailer full of that litter numerous times,” said Colin West, founder and executive director of Clean Up the Lake. “It’s crazy. We had 80 different days on the lake, and I’d say every two to three days we would almost fill a 10-to-12-foot travel trailer full of litter.”
The nonprofit reported removing a total of 24,77 pieces of litter from the lake, which included 4,527 aluminum cans, 295 pairs of sunglasses, 171 tires, and 127 boat anchors, reported EcoWatch.
As noted by West, most of the litter ended up in the lake by accident. “You might find five or six beer cans in one area,” he said. “But the sunglasses, the cellphones, the hats, the construction material – a lot of this has happened accidentally or from wind storms. No one is trying to lose a boat anchor.”
Lake Tahoe ranks among the top when it comes to water purity, which stands at 99.994 percent. However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the entire ecosystem is under threat as a result of climate change, with the water warming at a rate 15 times faster than last century’s average.
A trash culture to raise awareness
To raise awareness about the importance of preserving the lake’s ecology, the Tahoe Fund has commissioned a sculpture from the removed debris. The sculpture will be called “Surfaced” and will take the shape of an endangered species endemic to Lake Tahoe, including a Sierra Nevada red fox, a bald eagle, or a Lahontan cutthroat trout.
“By creating a permanent art sculpture at this wonderful location with some of what was recovered from the lake, our hope is that it will inspire greater environmental stewardship and remind those who love Lake Tahoe that it’s up to all of us to take care of it,” said Amy Berry, Tahoe Fund CEO.