A mysterious black barrel, its condition suggesting it has been in the Okanagan River Channel for years, was one of the items pulled from the waterways by divers doing a cleanup Sunday. Steve Kidd/Western News A mysterious black barrel, its condition suggesting it has been in the Okanagan River Channel for years, was one of the items pulled from the waterways by divers doing a cleanup Sunday. Steve Kidd/Western News

Channel cleanup cut short

Winds and rough water caused safety concerns for divers

There was no shortage of volunteers willing to get into the Okanagan River Channel and clean out the trash on Sunday, but Mother Nature wasn’t co-operating.

The planned cleanup had to be called off before the volunteers had finished the section they had planned on cleaning, stretching from the Green Mountain Road Bridge to the bridge at Skaha Lake.

Related: Taking the plunge to clean up the channel

“The last little bit here, the wind was too strong. It was a safety concern,” said Kevin Aschhoff, owner of Oceantech Scuba.

Even though they didn’t manage to cover as much of the channel as they planned, the divers still managed to fill a garbage bin with trash thrown into the waterway.

That includes about a dozen tires, a muffler, a bike, bike parts, carpeting and PVC pipes.

“There was lots of construction material, oddly enough, under the new bridge,” said Debra Williams, one of the organizers.

The haul also included an a black barrel with sludge leaking out.

“A lot of it was sand and sludge that came out it,” said Aschhoff. “It’s been down there for quite a while, because it was rusted out quite a bit.”

Not being able to get to the lower section of the channel meant leaving a lot of trash.

“If we get a chance to get to this lower level here, I am sure we will find a lot more,” said Aschhoff. “As it gets deeper, it falls into the holes and stays where the water isn’t moving so fast.”

The cleanup hadn’t been done for nearly a decade until it was revived in June 2016. Williams said they had hoped to do a session in the fall of 2016, but it didn’t come together.

Related: River Channel cleanup this weekend

“We skipped the spring one, obviously. The water was really high and running really hard,” said Williams.

Neither organizer was surprised at how much junk they were able to pull out, even in the short session.

“With the visibility being better this time, we could see more,” said Aschhoff. “Last year, the visibility was so poor unless you were right on top of it, you might miss it.”