With growing tourism interest and outdoor recreation on the crystal-clear waters of Lake Tahoe, trash has become monumental problem in the area. Organizations like Keep Tahoe Blue continue their important campaigns of walking the beaches and gathering any trash they find.
Another organization is looking complete the biggest trash clean up in Tahoe’s history, and is setting its sights below the surface.
Clean Up the Lake, a non-profit founded by filmmaker and scuba diver Colin West, began their 6-month campaign of underwater trash collection on Tahoe by hauling out 200 pounds. West, along with Tahoe Dive Center owner Matt Meunier, pulled out fishing rods, tires, aluminum cans, beer bottles and other trash on their first underwater clean up. Some of it has been in the lake for decades.
“With tourism increasing, so many jurisdictions working hard to manage the trash problem across two states, no one is able to pay attention to the trash under the surface of the lake that dates back all the way to the ’70s in areas,” West said to the Associated Press. “I decided it was time to make a difference in our own backyard. Tahoe appears to be pristine and beautiful, but under the surface, there are quite a few issues going on with pollution.”
The first clean up also located large items like buckets full of cement and car bumpers, which the group will remove with a crane or boat at a later date. While these big items are a cause for concern, it’s actually the much smaller items that are causing the most harm to the lake’s ecosystem.
A study by the Desert Research Institute showed an alarming amount of microplastics in the lake and Truckee River. These microplastics are the size of a pencil eraser or smaller and we’re found in nearly all the samples collected in the lake and river.
Clean Up the Lake has already raised money to complete their mission, with hopes that more funding will leave a lasting impact on the region. Tahoe Blue Vodka has donated a $100,000 and the Tahoe Fund has launched a campaign to match that with a goal of raising $200,000. You can help out by donating to their GoFundMe or directly on their website.