Car bumpers, bricks of Styrofoam weighing up to 150 pounds, shotgun shells and plastics are just some of the debris picked up by a Fraser River cleanup crew along Richmond’s West Dyke.
The crew – made up of four people who work full time and two part-time volunteers, who have been collecting trash since Nov. 15 – has been focusing on two areas of cleanup, including right off the dyke and along the high watermark.
“This is all stuff that’s not only coming from the ocean and getting pushed up against the shoreline, but the Fraser River extends so far into the mainland that it’s actually kind of a little chute for all this trash to come down,” said Brianna Iwabuchi, wetlands workforce field crew coordinator with the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF).
The cleanup crew also saw the impacts of the recent flooding in B.C., due to the atmospheric river weather event of Nov. 13 to 15.
“One thing the crew definitely noticed was that any sections that they were cleaning were automatically kind of refilled the next day,” said Iwabuchi.
While that did happen at other sites, it didn’t happen as quickly – and there wasn’t as much debris being redeposited as there was in Richmond.
“At the Richmond site, it was just like a restart button, essentially,” Iwabuchi said. “So, I definitely think the atmospheric river did have an effect.”
Rather than find that demoralizing, Iwabuchi said it meant the crew was able to remove even more debris from the wetlands.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 1.2 tonnes – or 1,210 kilograms – of debris has been removed from just the West Dyke trail alone, Iwabuchi said.
Overall, the project has so far removed 8.3 tonnes of debris from the Fraser River shoreline in Richmond and Delta – but the goal is to reach above 10 tonnes.
The West Dyke trail is the last major site before the project wraps up on Dec. 10, said Iwabuchi.
The work – carried out by the BCWF – is part of a larger project targeting the Fraser River shoreline in Delta and Richmond that began in September, which received funding under the provincial government’s Healthy Watersheds Initiative.
Several other cleanup projects are also underway throughout B.C. under that provincial program.
The area of the Fraser River where it meets the ocean was specifically chosen for the project, explained Iwabuchi, due to the saltwater estuaries or wetlands there.
“One thing that’s king of poignant, I suppose, with all the recent flooding – one thing a healthy wetland does is actually help retain water to reduce flooding incidents, or at least kind of delay them. It’s kind a temporary storing mechanism for water.”
It’s also important to keep these wetlands clean as they are sensitive habitats, she said.
Something unique to Richmond, she said, was the amount of car parts such as bumpers and gears that the crew found.
“That might be associated with the flooding, perhaps, but that’s kind of been a unique item…I just don’t think we found any other pieces of vehicles on the other sites.”
Once removed from the West Dyke, the debris is taken to Revolution Recycling.
People walking along the West Dyke may see debris piles, which usually have educational signage about the project. The piles are removed at the end of the week, Iwabuchi said.