If you've ever wondered how much trash is at the bottom of Lake Tahoe, Colin West has the answer, at least part of it.
West, the founder and executive director of Clean Up The Lake, recently pulled 8,183 pounds of trash out of Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake, which was the first step in his goal of cleaning up some of the top tourist destinations in our area.
"I think the sad thing is we've GPS tracked tens of thousands of other pounds of trash under water that were too heavy to remove," West said. "I use trash to describe obviously actual trash, pieces of boats, metal, cement buoy blocks that have been abandoned for a long time, and we're unsure of what kind of impact that could have on the water. It's not natural, so I figure, 'Get it out.'"
Given all the trash West and his co-divers have pulled out of the lake, you'd figure he's run into some odd things at the bottom of Lake Tahoe. So what's the oddest? We asked him.
"We've pulled hundreds of pairs of sun glasses, iPhones, all sorts of stuff that's down there," West said. "You get the more interesting pieces of trash like that and lots of beer cans. Definitely hundreds of pairs of sunglasses. I haven't seen Tahoe Tessie, but have seen some very interesting discoveries. There are some unspeakables (aka adult toys) maybe I wouldn't mention on live television that are quite funny. We've seen like old boom box radios with mix tapes and tape players that are like 31-plus years old, a Tupac hat, things that are just straight from the '90s among the really funny pieces you can pull out. Some old beer cans with different closures. I had a 44-year-old Diet Pepsi bicentennial can that was underneath a tire perfectly preserved in the sand with the color and it wasn't even crunched and has the pull-tab closure so it feels like a blast from the past some times. There are very interesting pieces of trash down there."
After taping his NSN Daily segment, West also said he and his divers found a huge chunk of human skin, which was a little jarring. But cleaning up Northern Nevada's water source has become his current passion. After doing a circumnavigation of the eight-mile Donner Lake, and pulling 5,183 pounds of trash out of it, Clean Up the Lake's goal is to complete a 72-mile scuba clean up of Tahoe up to 25 feet deep. For West, it's a job he both enjoys and knows is important to the environment.
"One thing that I've held in my profession as very important is having fun with what you do," said West, who did film and television work in the wine industry for a decade prior to founding Clean Up The Lake. "I think if everybody was having fun with their job and what they're doing in life, I think the world's a better place. I love getting out there and diving, and it's a day out on the lake, but the ability to give back and do something that will have an impact in the world today is very important.
"It's a totally different world when you go under water, and I love leaving everything behind and just having that tranquil moment for about an hour straight at the depths we're at."
As a non-profit organization, Clean Up The Lake depends on donations to continue its cleanups.
"It's not cheap," West said of the 72-mile scuba clean up of Tahoe. "We're going to need a boat, we're going to need a lot of supplies, so we can use all of the help we can get."