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The story behind the divers cleaning up Whistler’s lakes

Henry Wang started the non-profit Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans in 2013 and has risen in TikTok fame since

As more people flock to B.C.'s lakes and rivers, the pollution problem grows—including in Whistler.

From beer bottles and cell phones to skateboards and shopping carts, pollution in Whistler’s popular local watercourses has become a growing concern for many in the region. 

Diver Henry Wang first saw the surprising amount of pollution in B.C.’s lakes about 10 years ago, when a friend invited him to go for a dive in Buntzen Lake, a popular BC Hydro reservoir located north of Coquitlam. As Wang dived through the lake with his friend, he noticed hundreds of beer cans and bottles. 

“I just grabbed a few beer cans ... and I said to my friend, 'We have to come back and try to take some of this out,'" Wang recalled.

"So we went back with another couple of divers and got a few bags, and we came out with 500 pounds of trash, but it looked like we hardly did any damage at all."

Teaming with BC Hydro on a lake clean-up, Wang returned with more divers and, over the course of seven days, they removed more than 1,500 pounds of trash.

“So that's how the whole thing got started, because then out of curiosity, I was like, 'OK, I wonder if there's trash in other lakes,' because we really had no idea,” said Wang. 

The combined effort inspired Wang to formally organize the group into a non-profit called Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans, which brings together volunteer divers from across the province for community lake clean-ups. 

Since the non-profit was founded in 2013, the organization has done 198 lake clean-ups, including a few at Whistler’s lakes (the group has helped out with Whistler's annual Great Lake Clean Up on more than one occasion). With about 25 volunteers, the group has removed 48,365 pounds of trash from lakes and the ocean, including 38 pounds of trash from a 2021 cleanup at Whistler’s Lost Lake. 

“We’ve removed an absolute ton of stuff from all of the lakes in Whistler," said Wang.

"Alta Lake is surprisingly clean underneath the docks. I don't really know why that is, because it's a pretty active lake. We do find a little bit, but it's not crazy. Lost Lake is way worse."

Wang’s lake cleaning efforts have not gone unnoticed. On his TikTok, he has shown off quite a variety of finds to his 86,000 followers, including thousands of beer cans, phones, camera lenses, shopping carts and even an entire aluminum bench, which was odd considering there were no benches near where he was diving.

“The funny thing is that there's not really a bench anywhere near that area, so it didn't come from the dock. They had to unbolt the park bench from elsewhere, carry this thing like a really long way and just to throw it into the water.” 

Sadly, COVID has had a negative effect on the organization, as many of the volunteer divers moved away from the Sea to Sky and Metro Vancouver area to other parts of the province and Canada, so if you’re interested in helping clean up the region's lakes, the organization is eagerly looking for additional people to help out. 

You can find more information about volunteering with the organization on its website.


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