Picking Up Debris Months After Tropical Storm Irene

11/17/11 7:30AM By Nancy Eve Cohen
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VPR/Nancy Eve Cohen
Newfane Town Clerk Gloria Cristelli throws out debris washed up by Tropical Storm Irene.
(Host) Governor Peter Shumlin called on citizens last month to volunteer to clean up their communities after the Irene floods. Hundreds came out to help. But as VPR's Nancy Cohen reports, there's still debris to be picked up.

(Cohen) On the day Irene swept through, the water in rivers and brooks rose like an angry cobra plucking whole trees, demolishing homes, and scooping up whatever was in its path.

And when the force of the flood receded it dropped its loot like a distracted child. Ever since, volunteers have been picking up the mess.

(Mike Mayer) "What we've got here is spring cleaning about six months early."

(Cohen) Newfane resident Mike Mayer is tossing Irene's treasures into the back of a garbage truck.

(Mayer) "1957 Vermont license plate. You wonder what this would have been on when the flood hit."

(Cohen) Mayer is working alongside another volunteer and two people from Town Hall, including Newfane Town Clerk Gloria Cristelli.

(Cristelli) "I have a basketball and a jar filled with sand, a light fixture and some neat little tire, rubber tire. It's things and variations of everybody's life that went down the river."

(Cohen) Cristelli says on the official Vermont Clean Up Day last month, about 20 volunteers pulled up all kinds of stuff from the floodway next to the Rock River.

State officials say for most towns, roadside debris is no longer a problem. There's no state money to dispose of it.

In Newfane, Cristelli recently hired a rubbish removal truck and rolled up her own sleeves, along with Newfane's Administrative Assistant Shannon Meckle.

(Meckle) "It does say, ‘Other tasks as assigned,' in our job description."

(Cohen) FEMA may reimburse towns for 75 percent of the cost of debris removal. As long as it's on public property and it's collected within six months of the flood.

For VPR News, I'm Nancy Cohen.

(Host) This and other reports about the recovery from Tropical Storm Irene are supported by the VPR Journalism Fund.

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