SML Cleaning Up Tons of Debris

Bedford County, VA - It's been a week since heavy rains swelled river banks in Roanoke and Salem.

This week all the flooding debris is settling along Smith Mountain Lake's shoreline, meaning all the work is ready to begin before more debris from Wednesday follows.

The contractor hired by AEP to pick through the pockets of debris never knows what they'll find.

"A few trash cans, water hose, life jackets, tennis shoes," one worker said, from the wheel of his excavator.

Ken Stump says AEP has removed more than 1,400 tons of trash and logs from Smith Mountain Lake since January. And that doesn't even include this most recent flood.

"That is very high. A typical year we might get 400 tons," Stump explained.

While an excavator picks up the heavy stuff along Bedford County's shoreline, there's still more machinery involved, and a lot more work ahead.

AEP uses a skimmer on the Franklin County side of the lake to clear the debris off the surface of the water.

A conveyor belt on the front pulls the small stuff into a back compartment. While workers use chainsaws to make the larger pieces fit.

"Today we will probably get probably six dumpsters, 50 tons," Stump said of the amount of debris they'll collect.

The 50 tons of debris is a potential hazard for swimmers and boaters.

The clean-up makes the work the most messy, most murky job.

"I don't want to paint the picture that the entire lake is full of debris, which it is not. It's just the upper ends at this point," Stump added.

AEP says it's costing them a lot more money to clean up all the debris.

Still, none of the trash and debris compares to the infamous Flood of 1985. A spokesman says there was so much debris, people would pull trucks up to the boat docks just to collect all the lumber.