SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE, Va. (WSET) — Smith Mountain Lake sounds like a good place to be, but if you're headed there, you need to know about the Health Department's advisory for parts of that area.
The Virginia Department of Health has issued a harmful algal bloom advisory for the Blackwater River Arm area.
The advisory is due to unsafe levels of cyanobacteria.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, this algal bloom has produced a blue/ green discoloration of the water.
Teresa Picking has seen the teal discoloration in the cove in her own backyard at Smith Mountain Lake.
"It looked like someone dropped paint into the water," Picking said.
She said for the last 2 and a half weeks, the color comes and goes, and lake activities haven't really been an option.
"There are none, we don't want to use the jet ski, we don't want to float, we don't want to swim.," Picking said.
According to Margaret Smigo, the Waterborne Hazards Program Coordinator with VDH, warm temperatures, plenty of sunlight, and an abundance of nutrients is causing too much growth of this bacteria, which can produce toxins.
According to VDH, the cyanobacteria can cause a skin rash and illnesses such as upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Smigo said they recommend not swimming or participating in activities like paddle boarding or windsurfing in the advisory area.
“You may accidentally swallow water and if you ingest toxins, if they are being produced, that is the highest risk," Smigo said.
Smigo said it is okay to boat and fish.
Keri Green, the chair of the Lake Quality Council with the Smith Mountain Lake Association, is also weighing in.
"The tricky part for residents and why it's so confusing that this advisory is across the entire Blackwater is that the blue-green algae, better known as cyanobacteria, migrates throughout the day," Green said.
They aren't letting it put a damper on their day at the lake event this Saturday.
Green said they only have to adjust just one event that was meant to be in the water.
"That one event was our life jacket challenge and instead of doing it in the water, we're going to do it on land," Smigo said.
As for when the advisory could be lifted, Smigo said that's not clear right now as it's dependent on the weather and nutrient availability.
She also said right now VDH is testing the toxicity levels of the bacteria and they are awaiting those results.
You can view the Harmful Algal Bloom map here.