• Carmen Marie Fabio

Catching the drift

Besides the proliferation of driftwood and freshwater seaweed that the high waters have left along the Lac Saint-Louis shoreline following high winds, I stumbled upon an odd sight while walking my dogs on the weekend – softballs, dozens of them, bobbing amongst the reeds near the shore, from origins unknown.

Though I hope it’s not, as my son suggested, someone doing batting practice out onto the lake with no regard for marine life, I can’t imagine another scenario, unless a ship carrying a cargo of softballs suddenly capsized in the St. Lawrence Seaway. I think I would’ve heard about that.

According to the Environment and Climate Change Canada website, the pollution levels in Lac Saint-Louis are better than they were 20 years ago and with the exception of one gastro-like infection my son once got after playing in the lake with the dog, and one deerfly bite that landed me in an emergency room with a rapidly moving infection, the pollution is reportedly now below the most stringent quality criteria.

This is good news as we hear almost daily reports about the floating garbage patch in the Atlantic and the recent discovery of the uninhabited Henderson Island in the Pacific Pitcairn Islands – due to its geographic location amid the prevailing currents – being home to a conservatively estimated 38 million pieces of plastic trash, the highest known density of trash in the world, with an additional 3500 pieces washing up daily. Quoting one scientist interviewed after the discovery, “The ocean is downstream of everything.”

The post-flood detritus that has appeared on the shores includes myriad plastic bottles, a doll’s head, part of a deck chair, and for some reason, a large blue carpet. We also spotted a large, clear plastic pill bottle filled with tiny Ziploc plastic bags. “You think that was…,” my son began to ask.

“Yup. Probably,” I said. “Just leave it.”

The shores near my house are home to a wide variety of wildlife – ducks and geese share the waters, albeit from their respective flocks and gaggles – and every few hundred yards, a solitary heron stakes out his or her fishing spot. We’ve spotted muskrats and the occasional otter and fox, and from my kids’ fishing expeditions, they’ve documented sightings of catfish, pike, walleye, bass, sunfish, perch, and even a sizeable eel that washed ashore after a recent storm.

It’s a pleasure to see the fauna in and around the lake so I take issue with people using the water to practice their sporting moves. Once, while during a bike ride, I encountered a woman perfecting her golf swing by driving balls into the Ottawa River, I asked if she planned to also retrieve them. I dropped the issue and rode away when I did the simple math, adding her hostility to the fact that she was holding a titanium driver.

After seeing the softballs, my son told me about an enterprising fellow who once saw someone practicing their golf swing on a cruise ship, driving bucket-fulls of plastic contaminants into the ocean. Capitalizing on what, in hindsight, seems obvious, he developed a biodegradable golf ball that has fish food at its core, dissolving within 48 hours of being in the water. Brilliant.

Maybe someone could do the same thing with softballs.

It’d be a start.

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