Smith Mountain Lake receives $150,000 to research algae blooms following last year’s harmful outbreak

It’s been a year since the harmful algal bloom took over a section of Smith Mountain Lake.

Now, with help from the Smith Mountain Lake Association, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has allocated $150,000 from the state budget to research algae blooms at the lake.

While lots of water testing is done on the lake, there is no specific research for harmful algae blooms.

“What are the right questions to ask? What are the right objectives to set? And what are the outcomes we are going to see? Most of the study is going to be a desktop analysis. To figure out where the nutrients are coming from,” said Chair for SMLA’s Lake Quality Council, Keri Green.

In the meantime, SMLA took matters into their own hands and started the program, “Dock Watch.”

Volunteers like Paul Heinmiller, who lives at the lake, volunteer by collecting samples at 20 different places around the lake.

“We were unable to swim for most of the summer. So, when this program came out to collect more data, more detailed data, it seemed like a really good idea,” said Heinmiller.

Once the samples are collected, more volunteers study them under a microscope looking for certain kinds of bacteria which can lead to algae blooms.

While the $150,000 is a good start, Green said there is still much more work to be done.

“The $150,000 isn’t going to be enough. It is going to get us to the point where we have the beginnings of some answers to some questions that we aren’t even sure we are asking the right questions yet,” said Green.

The money from the state will become available in July, and must be spent within the year.

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