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‘It’s always been a problem’: Cleaning up the Rideau Canal, one bristle at a time


It’s time to sweep up after the sweepers.

The Ottawa Riverkeeper is asking volunteers to lace up their skates and hit the ice Feb. 7 for a Rideau Canal clean-up with the goal of gathering blue bristles left behind by the ice-sweeping equipment that maintains the skateway.

“It’s always been a problem,” said M.J. Proulx, director of the Watershed Network for Ottawa Riverkeeper.

“If they stay there and get stuck in the ice, when the river thaws, the plastic will be going into the river.”

How often sweepers go by depends on the weather and when the National Capital Commission decides to flood and sweep the skating surface, but, with Winterlude festivities beginning this weekend, the advocacy group expects to see a spike in maintenance and frequency of sweeping.

Proulx said they wanted to spread awareness to skaters about the bristle issue through the Feb. 7 event.

“When they go on their own, they will be more aware of the problem and they will pick them up on their own,” she said.

The Ottawa Riverkeeper will collect all bristles cleaned up throughout the winter.

“It gives us a good sense of how many there are.”

The city has told them the bristles are recyclable, Proulx said.

The event will take place Thursday at Dow’s Lake from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and a prize will be awarded to the person collecting the greatest number of bristles.


Ice-sweeping equipment used to clean the canal skateway. Courtesy Ottawa Riverkeeper OTTWP

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