After a lake cleanup this weekend at Lake Eva, I couldn’t help stop thinking how did this trash get here! As a young girl, I will admit I was one of those people who loved mystery books, and often thought of being a detective. I must say though that I never really thought that a trash pickup on a local lake could reignite my Sherlock Holmes tendencies. Well it did, not only was I picking up trash, but trying to track the trash back to its origin.

As I approached the lake shore to launch my kayak, it was evident that our morning would not be cut short due to lack of trash. I could see water bottles, Gatorade bottles, fishing line and empty bait containers floating among the aquatic vegetation near the dock. It was my first stop, because this litter was most easily visible to the public using the dock. It was also easy to track this trash to have likely come from visitors, either fishing or hiking the trails near by.

The next trash to track was a little more difficult to see from the lake as the cattails, pickerelweed and duck potato was trying hard to hide the trash hiding amongst their stems. So as I navigated, like the resident water birds, through the vegetation, tracking trash got more interesting. My trash collecting started to get interesting, a Barbie doll arm, an entire crest toothpaste tube, socks, plastic bags, baseball, tennis ball, pop tarts package, icing packet for toaster strudels,  cigarette butts and many other fascinating items. So where were these items coming from? Was someone brushing their teeth while fishing? I don’t think so. My curiosity was ignited. I was ready to track this trash. I kept paddling through the tall vegetation, and finally I came to an opening. That is when I saw it a large pipe leading to the lake. You see, not only does this lake feel the pressures applied by recreationalist on its shoreline and in its waters, but this lake is also the recipient of stormwater runoff. The items I had been picking up probably traveled many blocks through underground pipes and eventually make it to the lake. You know those stormwater access points along the roads we drive, some have signs that say drain to lake. Yes those really do drain to lake. So the variety of trash in my bucket is a collection of trash thrown to the road sides in the neighborhoods surrounding this lake.

I learned that by tracking trash, I was also learning more about this lakes story. I will continue to track trash as we do lake cleanups through the year and share those stories with you. Meanwhile you can make a difference by remembering simple things like, only rain goes down the drain.