Just when thought life at the lake couldn’t get any better there’s a correction. And how ironic we celebrate Lake Anna’s 50th birthday by landing on Virginia’s Impaired Waters list. Let’s be honest, at age 50 we all start having issues, right?
Being named to Virginia’s illustrious Impaired Waters list came as no suprise to those of us that have followed and been involved in the progression of our algae blooms. In fact, I knew five months ago Lake Anna was very likely going to be added to the list. If you receive VDH issued HAB advisories for three years in a row it’s a trigger. This is our fifth year in a row for those pesky advisories.
Anna joins a growing number of Impaired Waters because the VDH now includes HAB as a reason to be on the list. The good news is that being on the list also triggers funding and efforts to combat the reason for impairment.
When VDH issued it’s latest HAB advisory in July it was the largest yet for the lake – all the way down to Pigeon Run in the mid lake region. Optimists will note that half the lake isn’t included in the HAB advisory (and all of the Waste Heat Treament Facility or what some like to call The Private Side) and thus the impaired water distinction might be a bit misleading.
If you own a home or rental in the up lake region of the lake you know about algae. If you are down lake, you made a wise (or lucky!) decision.
There’s no quick fix to the algae blooms. Just ask the Lake Anna Civic Association. This group has commenced an experimental algaecide treatment on areas of the lake that typically experience algal blooms.
They essentially spray hydrogen peroxide on the algae and it dies before releasing the harmful bacteria. Problem is the spraying might kill the algae in the small treatment areas but it doesn’t address the root cause of the blooms – excessive nutrients, mostly phosphorus and nitrogen entering the lake through the watershed and then those nutrients being churned up by summer boat traffic in the shallow, up lake region like a cake mixture so the algae can “pig out” and bloom.
You can read about the results of LACA’s algaecide spraying elsewhere on this site. Their catchy “Kick The HAB” slogan and signs can be seen around the lake asking for donations to help pay for the $100K price tag.
So what is the effect of HAB advisories on the lake and community?
Well, if you have a rental home you might have had a cancellation this season. If you have a boat rental business, you might have had to answer some questions from your customers and also experienced a cancellation. Same with those renting paddlesport equipment.
If you get enough folks concerned about getting sick from contact with the up lake water it will move the needle on businesses that rely on visitors to the lake for income. The recent HAB advisory and the announcement of the lake going on the Virginia Impaired Waters list did slow tourism down in August.
Has anyone actually become ill from swimming in HAB advisory areas of the lake? I have not seen any documented evidence of such an occurance. In fact, a recent annual glow party in the up lake region drew hundreds of participants and on any given day you will find plenty of folks enjoying watersports in the advisory areas of the lake.
I am not discounting the algae blooms as something not to be concerned about, but I am encouraging those reading this not to over-react. There’s plenty of beautiful, clear, clean water here at Lake Anna and many, many events still going on and an amazing fall ahead where HAB becomes a memory.
Is that a license to stick our heads in the sand and ignore known watershead issues? Absolutely not.
After a Lake Anna Advisory Committee commissioned year long study fingered watershed nutrients as the culprit Dominion Energy suggested native plants propogated in the upper portion of the lake and water could possible assist in removing excess nutrients as such efforts have done elsewhere. I look forward to any assistance this great neighbor might be able to offer.
Some folks have installed aerators around their docks. Others will stake down bales of barley straw to combat algae blooms. How about a personal algae testing kit like the one you use for a hot tub? Seems like that might solve a lot of concerns about where it’s safe to swim.
I’ve been here so long algae grows on me. Algae blooms have been here for about 20 years but have become more common in the past 10 years, especially up lake.
I don’t know what the answer is to solve the harmful algae situation is yet, but I am encouraged by community efforts and hoping the $1 million allocated by the state during the most recent legislative session will be directed at mitigation efforts that will help all of us one day enjoy a summer free of harmful algae blooms.
– C.C. McCotter, LKA Life Publisher