With new company, Ridgefield teen aims to save planet one dive at a time: ‘We only have one Earth’

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

RIDGEFIELD — Lucas Williams always dreamed of the day he would jump from the cliffs at Richardson Park.

An unspoken rite of passage for many of the town’s local teens, the plunge felt more pressing to Williams since he grew up on Mamanasco Lake.

“I love pretty much everything about living on a lake … (and) ever since I was a kid those cliffs have always been right on the other side,” said Williams, 17. “The first day I was allowed (by my parents), I ended up scratching my leg and cutting it open on a piece of barbed wire underneath the water.”

After his injury, Williams was motivated to remove the barbed-wire fence to keep others from getting hurt. So a few summers ago, he dove below the surface — “just closed my eyes and held my breath” — to retrieve it.

“I thought there couldn’t be much more under there,” Williams said, “but I ended up finding a lot more stuff.”

Now, he’s helped pull thousands of pounds of trash from the lake and started a company that removes junk and algae from Fairfield County waters.

A consideration for conservation

In 1915, Anne S. Richardson, a well-known conservationist, moved to Ridgefield and built her home on the infamous cliffs. For 50 years, she meticulously cared for the property, and was a strong steward for protecting the town’s natural surroundings.

Upon her death in 1965, Richardson asked the property be converted into a park and donated to the town. But despite its namesake, the water below the cliffs has become a depositing point for trash and debris over the years.

Last summer, Williamson recruited some friends to conduct an exploratory review of the waters under the cliffs to determine how much debris had been deposited. The area, they found, was filled with trash.

Using diving masks, floating rafts and a miniature scuba device, the team removed more than 2,000 pounds of discarded materials from the lake, some of which was before Williams’ time.

“I’ve pulled up technology that I’ve never even (used),” he said, including radios from the ’70s and CD players.

The team also recovered a TV, a computer monitor, a metal picnic table, metal barrels, a bicycle, car tires, fence posts, traffic cones, wire fencing, a car axle, a lawnmower engine cover and a shopping cart. Williams estimates that volunteers removed 20 percent of the trash in the water last summer.

“We’re just scratching the surface,” he said.

In August, the Mamanasco Lake Improvement Fund — headed by Williams’ father — held a celebration in honor of its 50th anniversary. Williams attended the event with a boat full of debris he had dredged up from the lake, including a five-pound bucket full of glass. It was a good depiction of the work he’s accomplished thus far, he said.

Continuing the cause

This work has continued through Williams’ new company, Lake Underwater Cleanup and Salvage (or L.U.C.A.S. for short). The service provides junk and algae removal to waterfront property owners in Fairfield County.

Williams has several customers on Mamanasco and plans to expand to nearby Rainbow Lake, Candlewood Lake, Silver Lake and Lake Zoar.

Through youth education sessions, Williams hopes to enlighten the next generation about why having strong ecological standards is critical for local lakes and rivers.

“Other than … getting rid of all of the pollution … in the waters, my other goal is stop this problem from happening,” he said. “If people really knew what they were doing to the environment, they wouldn’t be continuing to toss garbage off of the cliffs

“We only have one Earth — we gotta take care of it as much as we can,” he said.

For information about Williams’ company, visit lakeunderwatercleanup.com.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com