It’s the off season for this state’s second largest lake, and residents are using their free time to lobby the legislature. They want a study and a solution to the algae problem that has plagued Lake Anna for the last two years.
Lake Anna is a popular spot for water skiing, fishing and swimming. Created in the late 60’s to serve the North Anna Nuclear Plant, it’s 17 miles long and fairly shallow, so when hot weather hits, it’s prone to grow algae that can – at first -- cause rashes and intestinal problems, but when algae dies it can create a toxin that may cause long-term liver and kidney problems.
Greg Baker, president of the Lake Anna Civic Association, says that’s when the state steps in.
“The Virginia Department of Health will issue no swim advisories," he explains. "For a good half of the lake in the last two years we’ve suffered from having no swim advisories and not been able to use the water with confidence.”
"It is still safe to boat and fish, " he says, “but clearly if you’ve come to the lake with your family, and you want to swim and water ski, having a no swim advisory puts a damper on the party.”
The solution, he explains, is to rid the lake of phosphorous and nitrates that promote algae growth.
“We need to do things like fence cattle out from the water streams. We need to, as homeowners, make sure our septic systems are pumped, avoid fertilizing. We want to keep from blowing leaves in the lake and grass clippings that are going to deteriorate and release the phosphorous.”
But Baker wants a detailed plan to eliminate the algae – possibly calling for creation of new wetlands.
“One of the best solutions for long-term treatment of algae is damming the creeks that come in, letting that water flood and planting lily pads and other things that will compete for the nutrients – act as a natural filtration, and it’s been one of the most successful solutions to controlling algae,” Baker says.
For now, he and other leaders of Lake Anna communities are backing a bill sponsored by Delegate John McGuire that would require the health department to do a study of the problem and possible solutions.