Local diver Don Fassbender is shown underwater. (Photo courtesy of Don Fassbender via 8-18 Media)

Don Fassbender, an extraordinary local diver, has dedicated his diving career to keeping the “Fresh Coast” Costs.

Fassbender started scuba diving 30 years ago because he wanted to see what was under the waves of Lake Superior and what he saw below the surface shocked him.

“Everywhere I went there would be at least a little trash, whether it was just soda bottles or beer cans or something like that, wrappers. But when I started spending more time in the lower part of the port of Marquette, I saw a lot of waste ”, he said.

“And it was alarming for me to think that there was so much garbage in the cleanest of the Great Lakes, the largest of the Great Lakes. Upper is cleaner than any of the lower Great Lakes, but seeing the amount of garbage there made me fear that what we are doing to provide water for future generations is just a terrible thing. If it’s happening here, it’s happening everywhere.

A refrigerator came out of the lower port of Marquette. (Photo courtesy of Don Fassbender via 8-18 Media)

Fassbender believes that taking action to clean up the lake now can have a big impact in the future.

“I read a study where some scientists believe that about 10% of the microplastics in our oceans today come from tires that dissolved in water – and Lake Superior… it’s our drinking water. It is my daughter’s drinking water and hopefully her daughter’s source of drinking water. And we no longer want to pollute it ”, said Fassbender.

“It was polluted by the generations that came before us. I think this is something we have to take it upon ourselves to do… to right the wrongs of the past and set an example for future generations on how not to treat the planet.

“We can’t survive without water so I think it’s up to me and everyone who scuba dives to make the place a little better than what they found.”

Fassbender is currently running local clean-up dives in Marquette, but no matter where he dives he is ready to do his part.


“When I’m scuba diving, for example, there was a port that I visited a few months ago, I brought my mesh bag with me and cleaned up there. Everywhere I go, I clean the water garbage ”, he said. “But as far as organized dives are concerned, there are quite a few, so I’ll leave that for Marquette. I plan to take the show on the road and go to other ports and clean up, but for now, so far, it’s mostly here in Marquette County.

Clean-up dives organized by Fassbender in Marquette are coordinated with all volunteer divers.

“When it comes to cleaning up in Marquette, I have people from all over the Midwest who are volunteers, but generally the same faces I see.

“The same gentleman from Indiana comes to help me every time. There are two pairs of downstates. They make the trip every year. They love it here and they want to see it stay beautiful ”, he said.

“As for the local diving scene, there are a good number of people here, but not all of them volunteer for the cleanup. There are a lot of them and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to jump in the water and try to pick up the trash if you are not very experienced. Golden rule # 1 is to stay alive. I am honest here. There are dangers associated with diving, so it should not be taken lightly.

During Fassbender’s expeditions, he found more than small pieces of garbage. He has found items such as refrigerators, car parts, and tires, but there is one treasure that stands out from him.

“It would be a diamond ring attached to a rock. I still have it. Not the rock. But the ring, said Fassbender.

Those considering getting their diver certification should know that it takes time and practice to ensure divers are as safe as possible underwater.

For those who aren’t certified divers, there are plenty of other ways to help keep the world’s largest freshwater lake clean.

“All roads lead to the lake. If you see anything on the street: cigarette butts, straws, plastic bags, what have you got. They can eventually find their way to the beach through storm water and so on, so just try to recover after yourself ”, said Fassbender. “If you see something wrong, try to correct it yourself if it is safe to do so, otherwise bring it to the attention of others.

“I’ve been through areas where in the streams there are tires and other things that look like paint cans or something acidic in those cans and they start to rot, and instead of ignore it, call it to someone’s attention.

“You can research Superior Watershed (Partnership), for example, and volunteer for one of their programs. They do a number of cleanings in the watershed and that doesn’t necessarily mean in or under water. Finding places to volunteer and help would be a good start.

Or maybe it’s as simple as this: the next time you take a walk in the evening and see someone’s old empty bag of crisps sitting by the side of the road, think about where it will end up. and choose to collect it to help keep our lake clean now and for future generations.

Anja McBride, 8-18 Media reporter, is 16 years old.

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