Town hall meeting aims to inform Smith Mountain Lake residents about harmful algae bloom

Updated: Jul. 6, 2023 at 4:30 AM EDT
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SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Smith Mountain Lake community can learn more about the harmful algae bloom in parts of the lake and learn what they can do to help. Experts will be providing an update on the cyanobacteria levels in the lake at a town hall meeting Thursday.

The Smith Mountain Lake Association (SMLA) is hosting Thursday night’s meeting to educate lake residents about what cyanobacteria are and give an update on the current swimming advisory.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) started testing the water in June. Researchers found the level of cyanobacteria to be significantly worse than the averages from the last two decades.

The most recent testing results will be presented Thursday night.

VDH and VDEQ issued a swimming advisory in the Blackwater Arm portion of the lake in June because of the high algae bloom levels. SMLA’s chair of the Lake Quality Council explained the town hall is also an opportunity for residents to ask experts questions about the swimming advisory.

”A lot of people have questions about when it [the swimming advisory] is going to be over and why it’s in such a large area, as the entire Blackwater Arm has been deemed unsafe for swimming,” Keri Green said. “We also hope to have county [agriculture] extension agents with us who can give landowners some ideas of what they can do to control runoff.”

The advisory doesn’t prevent you from going on the waters in a boat, but it’s not recommended for you or your pets to swim in.

SMLA, a nonprofit organization, partners with Ferrum College to test water samples for bacteria. Thursday night’s meeting will present the most recent samplings that show higher levels of e-coli, chlorophyll and a decrease in water clarity.

Green explained environmental experts will also be at Thursday night’s meeting to present residents with solutions for how they can control cyanobacteria levels and runoffs in their own coves.

”In terms of keeping nutrients out of the lake, the best things for folks to do is to consider planting a buffer garden and the Smith Mountain Lake Association offers free advice on how to do that,” Green said. “You also want to make sure that your septic system is operating properly.”

The Smith Mountain Lake Association will start their own water monitoring to measure levels of cyanobacteria in the lake. VDH and the Virginia DEQ will do another round of testing and give an update on the current swimming advisory after Thursday’s meeting.

The town hall meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. and goes until 7 p.m. at Trinity Ecumenical Parish in Moneta. You can find out how to register for the meeting here.