Clean Water — Our Future, the first-ever shoreline cleanup taking place from the water, was held May 8 at East Point Park on the Scarborough Bluffs.
The Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association (GTSWCA), the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and the Living City Foundation joined forces to clean up large debris from an area of the city that is not easily accessible.
The focus of the cleanup was for volunteers to remove large, heavy items such as tires and old car parts that have been dumped along the shoreline and buried in the sand.
“The problem with this area of the shoreline, as well as around the corner where there are the actual Scarborough Bluffs, the cliff face, is that they are inaccessible by machinery and what not, so to get anything out here to clean up is almost an impossibility,” explained Giovanni Cautillo, executive director of the GTSWCA.
“The majority of volunteers are walking the shoreline and pulling whatever they can and then it gets loaded onto the boat from this angle and we can go to an accessible point, where it will either be recycled or disposed of properly.”
For years, Lake Ontario has been a dumping ground for unwanted items, which usually results in gas, oil and rust leaking or seeping into the lake, polluting the water and damaging fish and bird habitats, explained Cautillo.
“For the GTSWCA, Lake Ontario is the main source of our drinking water that runs through the pipes we install,” Cautillo pointed out.
“Anything you throw into it contaminates the water that you drink, that you use and by you I mean every constituent.”
“There are nine million Ontarians that this water supplies. It’s the largest body of fresh water that we have in North America, why are we dumping into it, be it material objects like car parts and buggies or sewage?”
Judith Reda, partnership and engagement officer for the Living City Foundation, said the group has been looking for an organization to partner with to do the cleanup.
“We don’t have the resources to do this or the manpower, so this is an incredible partnership,” she explained.
“There are car axles buried, tires, picnic tables and a lot of heavy trash. The city (of Toronto) is bringing in ATVs so we can winch things out and Valcom Marine is here with their vessel and they’ll be shipping everything away. Once we dig everything out, under normal circumstances, because you can’t get here from land, the trash would have to stay, so this is our first opportunity to remove it because it’s being done by water.”
About 50 volunteers from the GTSWCA took part in the day.
“All of these guys are contractors volunteering their time,” said Cautillo. “They can be out working on a beautiful day like today, instead they chose to come out and make a difference.
“I would challenge all other organizations to do something that would make a difference. There are 26 kilometres of shoreline that TRCA takes care of, I am assuming that we can get 26 organizations to do one kilometre.”
Partnerships are key, he added, encouraging others to collaborate with the TRCA and the Living City Foundation. Cautillo also noted this is the first phase of the cleanup and the second phase will depend on the availability of the other two partners.
“There are synergies when there is more than one group getting together and we bring a certain skillset that they don’t have,” said Cautillo.
“We as contractors are always solving problems, especially in our world because what we deal with is subterranean so we never know what we’re going to get into until we uncover it.
“Very similar to this, when you have the water, you don’t know exactly what you have out there until you get in there and ascertain what it is that you have to tackle.
“Then you bring the right equipment for the job — that will be phase two and three. We would love to do this on a yearly basis if need be, but I would like to be able to one day say there is no more cleanup required because everything is beautiful and pristine.”