Sep. 10—For more than 20 years the Smith Lake Environmental Preservation Committee (SLEPC) has partnered with Alabama Power for their bi-annual cleanup efforts at Smith Lake. They encourage community participation and are requesting the public's assistance on Friday, Sept. 16.
Since 2000 the SLEPC have removed more than 6 million pounds of trash from Smith Lake. SLEPC President Stephen Morros said that while the usual contaminants such as bottles and cans do contribute to pollution in the lake, that the target of their efforts would be larger items. He said that large pieces of un-encapsulated styrofoam that was commonly used for floating docks — before being banned by Alabama Power — have a tendency to become brittle and break away from boat docks, endangering the lake's wildlife.
"We will have two barges from Alabama Power, and we will be mostly looking for big garbage. Of course the smaller trash that gets washed up in some of these areas, we will remove that as well," Morros said.
Crews will meet at the Smith Lake Park Boat Launch at 8 a.m. before heading out to focus on the areas around Simpson Creek and Goat Island. Morros said that he is hopeful that time will allow the cleanup effort to go as far as Ryan Creek. The SLEPC encourages volunteers to wear the appropriate clothing and footwear (long pants, sturdy shoes or boots) and to bring sunscreen as well as insect repellent. T-shirts and lunch will be provided to all volunteers.
Morros said that a bonus for volunteers is the opportunity to see and experience more remote areas of the lake that are typically overlooked, and the satisfaction of aiding the organization's efforts to maintain Smith Lake's reputation as one of the cleanest in the country.
"We want to make sure that we keep the lake clean for generations to come. It's about taking pride in what we have, and helping to keep it that way for the future," he said.
Of course Morros knows that it takes more than a single day to maintain the cleanliness of a waterway as expansive as Smith Lake. It requires a daily effort. He encourages those looking to purchase lakefront property to research the native landscape before clearing waterfront property, and retaining at least a 10-foot buffer of native plant life leading up to the shoreline. He also stressed the importance of small actions, such as speaking up when witnessing environmentally dangerous actions and carrying small trash receptacle when heading out onto the water.
"We are the eyes and ears of the lake, it can't speak for itself. I always try to stress the importance of reporting things when you see them happening. I also like to encourage people to bring something like a bucket or something along with them, and if they see some trash or something when they are out on the water to just pick it up. You always want to leave with more than you came with," Morros said.
Volunteers wishing to participate need to register no later than Monday, Sept. 12.
For more information or to register as a volunteer visit slepc.org.