By Sally Voth
The Shenandoah River isn't the only local waterway with an algae problem. Lake Laura also has an issue with the gunk, at least according to one longtime resident.
"We have an algae problem here dating back to about 1980," Hays Lantz said.
Lantz said he's had a lakeside home for more than 30 years. He said two studies were done in the early 1980s that confirmed the issue.
Pollutants from farmlands upstream and from the sewage treatment plant at Orkney Springs were the culprits, Lantz said.
"Ever since that time, we've seen the problem get worse," he said.
It's significantly affected his recreational use of the lake.
"I use the lake for fishing and boating and swimming," Lantz said. "Used to, that is. The algae is so thick in the southern end of the lake that we really can't do any of those. I've spoken to dozens of fishermen about the issue."
In July and August, it's about impossible to launch a boat from the landing, he said.
"The algae is just so thick it looks like you're looking out on your yard," Lantz said. "You get a terrible stench."
He said he intends to work with Shenandoah Riverkeeper Jeff Kelble on the issue.
"It's a major problem," Lantz said. "Sooner or later, Bryce Resort is going to have to address it, particularly if the Shenandoah River is declared impaired by [the Department of Environmental Quality]."
Any algae issues on Lake Laura are part of a natural process, according to Bryce Resort General Manger Rob Schwartz.
"Lake Laura is a fantastic recreation lake," he said Tuesday afternoon. "It's listed as one of the top 2 to top 5 fishing lakes in all of Virginia."
Around September and October, the shallow end of the lake does get vegetation, Schwartz said. He said he wasn't sure if that was algae.
"That's just a natural process," Schwartz said. "The lake was built to be a flood control and sediment control. The water quality is considered to be very, very good. We perform testing every month for E. coli because we operate the beach area."
When the sun hits the shallow end of the lake, vegetation grows, and then dies, and the water gets even shallower, he said.
"That's a problem, but it's also natural, " Schwartz said. "The problem with the lake is mostly appearance. The fish population is very strong. The water quality is very strong.
"There's no doubt that the lake was fed more nutrients than it should have been, but of course now that Orkney Springs is on the Stoney Creek Sanitary District the hope is that that will be 10, 20 times better."
The resort has also gotten back to drawing down the water in the fall to improve the quality, too, according to Schwartz.
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org