Innovative Chilliwack riverside nail cleanup work hits 3,100 lbs

David Elderkin eyeing up bigger hauls on gravel bars and up Chilliwack River Valley

Chilliwack resident David Elderkin continues to clean up the river edges

There seems to be an unending supply of nails, screws and metal scrap at the edge of the Fraser River.

Most of it is deeply embedded in ash from fires, and mud from the river, but so far David Elderkin has been able to unearth  3,100 lbs of it.

That’s almost 1.5 tons of scrap salvaged, recycled and kept out of the river system, where they can add to heavy metal pollution and even endanger wildlife and fish.

Elderkin started his project in July, and announced his project to groups on Facebook when he hit about 500 lbs. He had developed a system of dredging metal from fire piles and dried mud and rock with rare earth magnets. Using a pole, a few buckets, and some ingenuity, he set out to pick up as much as possible.

And he’s still going.

“At first I thought 2,000 lbs was impossible,” he says. But as the word spread about what he was doing, he had others showing up to help. These days it’s often just him out there, but he’s nowhere near giving up. Elderkin has just sent away for eight more magnets, which will arrive in about a week. That will create enough magnet systems for three more people to help him.

“And after that, I will be buying 10 more,” he says.

He’s also met a farmer that is building him a magnet sweeper. And that partnership came up after a drunk driver crashed into a fence on Camp River Road. That sent countless nails shooting through a farmer’s field, causing a long-term danger to his cattle. The farmer had heard about Elderkin’s magnet system, and reached out to him via Facebook.

There are other partnerships, too. Elderkin says there are many others in the community who have helped out with cleanups, including the Fraser Valley Salmon Society. Many others have donated through his GoFundMe account.

“I’m very grateful for all of the support,” he says.

Part of the battle is the sheer magnitude of pallets available to the public for burning. Many businesses leave them outside their gates for people to pick up. Just one pallet can hold dozens of screws or nails, which are left behind long after the bonfires go out. The same goes for couches and mattresses that get burned at rivers’ edges.

Elderkin is hoping to see changes one day, but feels the problem is only getting worse.

Right now, he’s focused on getting to the gravel bars in the river, where there are easily 100 burn sites.

“I also have started cleaning up shooting galleries up Bench Road, up Chilliwack River Valley,” he says. “Once I get a few rigs going four of us can do an initial site cleanup then go back every month to do the recent stuff.”

He wanted to get the word out to thank people who have donated and helped so far.

“Without your financial support I couldn’t fulfill my vision of a cleaner environment,” he says.

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