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This Canal Wasn't Drained For 15 Years And When It Finally Was, This Is What They Found

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Oct. 31 2018, Updated 8:52 a.m. ET

Paris' Canal St. Martin is one of the French Capital's most iconic fixtures.

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It was originally commissioned by Napoleon in 1802 to provide Paris with a fresh, constant supply of clean water (aquatic-born diseases were big back in the day). The water was also used for washing city streets and the canal's passages were utilized by boats providing the city with food and supplies, but with the advent of cars and reliable indoor plumbing, the canal's usage stagnated.

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In the 1960's, there were talks of emptying the canal, filling it up, and paving over it to make way for a highway, but the iconic waterway was left as a fixture of the city. 

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Now even though the Canal Saint Martin is a piece of Paris' history, that doesn't mean it doesn't collect some trash now and then. And not just trash that people throw into it, but because it's a moving body of water, it's gathering garbage from all over. It might look beautiful, but it holds some trashy secrets.

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So when the canal was drained for the first time in 15 years to clean up, workers expected to find some garbage.

But they probably didn't expect to find as much as they did and, definitely not like this.

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First, the canal's doors were opened and drained, section by section, leaving a small amount of shin-deep water cleaners waded through to spruce up the Saint Martin.

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The drained canal looked like a forgotten wonderland of garbage and water-soaked belongings on yesterday.

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Bicycles, bicycles galore.

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Somehow, entire mopeds and motorcycles got in there too.

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And the number of wine bottles, well, let's just say it didn't do much to help combat that French stereotype.

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In total, 90,000 cubic meters of water were drained from the canal over three months. The last time it was cleaned was back in 2001, and when it was, 40 tons of trash was extricated and, along with a haul of the usual garbage, gold coins, washing machines, and two 75mm shells from World War 1. Going further back, over 50 cars were pulled out from the Saint Martin.

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In addition to all of the trash, there were a lot of fish that were living in the canal.

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Specialists removed the fish and took the live ones away in tanks and containers so they could have a new home that wasn't a nasty canal.

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A public sector worker, Bernard, was horrified by the sheer amount of rubbish that was cleaned out of the canal.

"That’s Paris for you, it’s filthy. The last time, I don’t remember seeing so much rubbish in it. I despair. The Bobos are using it as a dustbin."
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During the clean-up, local authorities had to implore citizens to stop from going into the canal to explore the old garbage themselves, whether in an attempt to score some hidden treasure or reclaim something that accidentally fell inside.

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Kind of hard to imagine you just up and lost a vespa in it though. "Now where did I put that thing?!"

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