People were gathered all around to see what secrets lay at the bottom of the canal. The water slowly drained as hundreds of eyes all looked down in anticipation.
A dirty secret was about to be revealed to the masses. And when it happened, it happened so fast he wasn’t so sure what he had even seen.
At 54 years old, Bernard Mare had seen Paris develop into the sprawling city that it was today. He had lived here his whole life and had seen people from all walks of life.
This was the city where he fell in love with the woman of his dreams and where he’d raised his two beautiful children. As such, he wanted the best for them and signed up to clean up the city, but he could never have anticipated what he’d find.
Paris is full of canals, one of the most known is Canal Saint-Martin. It was originally built so more of the city could get clean water. It was also used to carry boats full of essential supplies like food.
But these days the canal has fallen from grace and isn’t exactly what it used to be.
He noticed over the years that a lot of people disrespected the canal. They would throw away their waste as if it was a trash can. He happily volunteered to aid in cleaning it up and bringing it back to its former glory.
But nothing would prepare him for what he would find once he was down in the canal.
The canal had a rich history and saw many events throughout the centuries. Tourists and locals alike loved to come marvel at the once-great canal.
So people gathered from all around when it was announced that the canal would be drained to clean it out. They wanted to see what had been left in the canal over the centuries.
Over the years Bernard had often sat by the canal enjoying coffee with his family. But now he was in a waterproof suit with a hose in his hand, ready for the job to start.
The work started early at around 6 in the morning. The whole operation had gone well so far. But that would soon change.
As the water drained from the canal, Bernard was curious to see what the canal was hiding in its depths. As he looked at the surface of the swirling water, he could swear that something caught his eye.
Something didn’t feel right to Bernard, as the water swirled something stirred in his chest. Something was wrong.
The water kept being drained until it was only 50cm high. Now the workers including Bernard leaped down into the knee-high water clean up by hand.
He put on his gloves, grabbed his net, and waded deeper into the water. It was brown and murky, he didn’t like this, he heard a voice in his mind screaming that something was wrong.
The net he trawled the water with instantly caught resistance as old trash filled it to the brim. He made the mistake of looking at the net and almost vomited in disgust.
He walked over to the huge trash cans to dump the nets-worth of trash inside. But before he got there, he tripped on something in the water and looked back as the surface split into two.
He had no idea what he was looking at. He just knew he needed to get out of there, quick. But before he had a chance to back up, water started to splash violently around him.
Seeing the trouble Bernard was in, a co-volunteer rushed towards him to see what was happening. “Stay still Bernard!”, he cautioned. “Let me get a closer look.”
The man grabbed his net and cleared some of the trash away. What came into view left them both in a state of turmoil.
Bernard could just about make out the shape of the biggest fish he had ever seen. Its eyes alert with aggression and fear as it tried to break itself free from the astonishing object that was holding it.
Bernard helped the man free the giant trout from a wheel of a vintage scouter that must have cost a very pretty penny once upon a time. They then scooped up the beast in a net and transferred it to a more suitable habitat. It was just the first of many rescues that day.
Bernard and his team fished out more than five tons of carp, trout, and bream and removed more than 40 tons of waste from the water. But that’s not all.
Walking along the shallow depths was like walking on a dumpsite filled with thousands of bikes.
“It’s like some kind of weird submarine treasure,” said a local Parisian onlooker. “I just can’t believe the quantity of Vélibs in there. I guess they were stolen and thrown in afterward. It’s bizarre,” he shrugged. But what was harder to believe, was how much this operation cost the city.
Paris had to shell out more than $10 million to execute this much-needed cleaning operation. But with the amount of tourist attraction and property development the canal attracts, it’s important to keep it from falling into despair which would negatively affect the attraction and property pricing around the area.
As for Bernard, he had other worries…
“That’s Paris for you, it’s filthy,” Bernard sighed. “The last time [the canal drained], I don’t remember seeing so much rubbish in it. I despair. The Bobos are using it as a dustbin.”
Bernard and authorities now know they are dealing with a waste crisis when it comes to the canal. He continues to try to help the canal remain clean and respected as a valuable landmark to be nurtured. Then perhaps in the future, people could even swim in it.