Underwater Pitch-In aims to clean up Lake Ontario

Photo by Marta Ortigosa.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, Sustainable Kingston, alongside Divemasters Jason Guindon and Andrew Baker, and local dive shop Explorer Diving, are ‘pitching in’ to clean up underwater waste in Lake Ontario.

“As any diver will tell you, there is a considerable amount of junk at the bottom of Lake Ontario, not far from Gord Edgar Downie Pier,” explained Guindon. “While divers routinely remove beer bottles and smaller pieces of trash from this area, we’re hoping that, by working together, we can get rid of some larger pieces that have been down there for too long.”

This one-day, volunteer diving event will begin at 10 a.m. in Breakwater Park and, according to organizers, the waste that is recovered will be sorted into bins by volunteers working on the shore.

After hearing the idea for Underwater Pitch-In, Sustainable Kingston was happy to partner with Guindon, Baker, and their team of volunteer divers, according to a release from the organization.

“We’re thrilled to help with the junk removal portion of this event and support the divers with anything they need,” stated Geoff Hendry, Chief Operating Officer of Sustainable Kingston. “This event is going to make the lake cleaner for humans, fish, and wildlife, and safer for divers and swimmers.”

In response to Kingstonist inquires, Hendry shared that they do have a few volunteers “who have indicated they want to help, but we could use some more. On the shore, I think having two to three people volunteering at all times throughout the event would be ideal,” he said.

As for divers, Guindon told Kingstonist that so far they have eight divers interested in helping out, but all divers are welcome to join. He hopes to have enough help to remove some large pieces from the bottom of the lake and, in order to do so, divers need to work in pairs.

“We are aware of at least one shopping cart, many tires, one pull-out love seat, one cathode ray TV, many steel t-beam posts, public works pylons, and one giant piece of steel cable which we may not be able to lift, but are going to attempt,” Guindon explained.

Kingstonist inquired as to how the divers will lift these objects, and Guindon shared some details on how that will be done.

“When lifting large items like this, you need at least two divers working in pairs,” he reiterated. “Typically, they start by tying a rope around the object to be lifted. Then, a lift bag will be attached to that rope. A second rope is attached to the object to be used as a guide rope. In the event of a runaway, the guideline can be used to control the lift bag direction. Then, the lift bag is slowly inflated using the regulator mouthpiece of the emergency backup line, typically referred to as the octo, short for octopus.”

According to Guindon, the dive pair works together to keep the object ascending under control. Once it reaches the surface, the item will be dragged over to the pier or the beach to be removed. He noted that, if it goes to the pier, a rope will be attached to the item so it can be hauled up and the lift bag and guideline will be removed once the removal rope is attached.

“Sometimes on bigger objects, more than one lift bag is required,” he continued. “One diver per lift bag is needed. Communication between the lift bag divers becomes paramount, as the inflation has to happen at the same time and at the same amount during the lift to raise the object at the same rate at each lift point.”

Those who are interested can watch the lift bag process on YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6OHmn4Tcfd4

Interested volunteers can contact Geoff Hendry at [email protected]. Divers interested in taking part should reach out to Jason Guindon at [email protected].

To learn more about the 2022 Underwater Pitch-In, visit www.sustainablekingston.com, or call Geoff Hendry at (613) 770-8546.

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