Wednesday October 25, 2023

SF Gate

It’s no secret that Lake Tahoe has a trash problem, and local nonprofit Clean Up the Lake has pulled more than 61,000 pounds of debris from the lake since 2018. But as scuba divers are limited to a depth of about 60 feet, that leaves 1,584 feet of depths the organization can’t reach. 

Enter the Restoring the Lake Depths Foundation, a South Lake Tahoe-based nonprofit using a deep-water robot to pull refuse from beneath the surface. In summer 2023 alone, the organization used the robot to pull nearly 5 tons of hazardous materials from the lake, including about 1 ton of alcohol bottles containing lead and cadmium. The rest included hundreds of action cameras and at least five camera drones with lithium batteries, plus a 16,000-pound electric boat. 

Lithium batteries contain toxic and hazardous chemicals like lead, nickel, graphite and copper. A research team in July studying water in Emerald Bay found that Lake Tahoe’s lead levels surpassed the EPA-approved limit by more than 2,500 times, partially due to deteriorating lead-based telecom cables on the lake floor. 

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