TAMPA, Fla. — When you're walking along Tampa's iconic riverwalk, soaking in the views—you're likely blissfully unaware of all that lies below the water's surface.
Like dozens of electric scooters.
For over a year now, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful has been coordinating dives to get the scooters out of the waterways. On Friday, five scooters, two tires, a bus stop sign, and a fishing rod were all pulled from the Hillsborough River.
"Very difficult," David Zielinski, a volunteer diver, described the dive. "The current is very strong. When you actually do pull something from the bottom, it creates a big plume of silt."
The view while diving the Hillsborough River isn't great. Divers only have a few feet of visibility. And as soon as you touch the bottom or move an item, like a scooter, a cloud of silt obstructs your view.
"The hardest part is when you pull it out, you've got to not lose it and then you have to try to get the rope maneuvered around while the current is pushing," Zielinski said.
After a scooter is secured with rope, a crew aboard the boat begins to slowly pull the item to the surface. Then, the waterlogged and barnacle-covered scooter is hoisted on the boat.
Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful has removed roughly 200 e-scooters from the Hillsborough River over the course of six dives.
For this haul, it took one diver three hours to remove five scooters and other large items.
"Whatever it took for you to get that in water, that five minutes of fun — there are ramifications for it," Captain Al Antolik said.
Antolik is the environmental programs director with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful.
"Whatever you throw in the river that doesn't organically come from the river will create issues down the road..." he said.
Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful has spent thousands on equipment to make these dives possible, even though it's the scooter companies' contractual responsibility.
Malique Rankin is a general assignment reporter with 10 Tampa Bay. You can email her story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.