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Photo courtesy of Lake Monticello Home Owners Association

Keeping Lake Monticello Safe to Swim in

September 12, 2022

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Keeping Lake Monticello Safe to Swim in

August’s sewage spill at Lake Monticello had some Fluvanna residents asking “How safe is it to swim at Lake Monticello, or any lake in Fluvanna?” E. coli, pesticides, and sewage are just a few harmful things that can lurk in local lakes, something that teens may not be aware of when they jump in the water in the summer, or after a long day at school.

Sewage spills, runoff from lawns and farms, and fecal matter can create a breeding ground for E. coli and other bacteria. This can be very dangerous for anyone, but especially for little kids and those with immune issues, asthma, and other respiratory concerns. Chemicals in the water can also result in illnesses such as ear and eye infections, skin problems, and in some cases, neurological problems.

So on Aug. 9, when a local resident informed the Lake Monticello Homeowners Association (LMOA) that an Aqua Virginia pump station was leaking sewage into the lake, Lake management acted fast. According to LMOA Communications Director Marieke Henry, “Aqua started work on the pump station early the next morning and LMOA pulled water samples for E.coli testing all around the Lake.”

Monroe Cove and Beach 3 were closed immediately for the safety of residents while testing was being conducted. The initial E. coli results were higher than normal at Beaches 4 and 5 and residents were notified and signs were put up immediately. LMOA waited the recommended time before retesting. Monroe cove, Beach 3, 4 and 5 reopened on Aug. 18 once the E. coli levels were safe.

“Aqua has a number of sewage pump stations near the water’s edge and because some waterfront properties have sewage grinders, it is always a possibility that one of these malfunctions, leading to a spill,” said Henry.
If you ask local students, you’ll get mixed views on whether they prefer swimming in the Lake Monticello pool or in Lake Monticello itself. Sophomore Carly Brown says “The lake is a fun place to hang out with friends.” In contrast, senior Ella Kearny says “The water has been polluted over the course of the last ten years. There have been many sewage spills in the lake that have not been cleaned up.” Like her, some locals prefer the Lake Monticello pool over the lake because the pool has chlorine in it to kill bacteria in the water.

However, sewage spills may not be as common as they seem. Henry says that “In the six years that I have lived here, I remember two other incidents.” Moreover, unlike oil spills in the ocean, sewage spills can’t be “cleaned up” but instead, disappear on their own over time. In fact, Henry says, “Luckily, fresh water is continuously flowing into the Lake and water is running out. It is not a still-standing body of water. Eventually, the spill dissipates and exits the Lake.”

Henry also emphasizes that LMOA works with an independent company called Solitude that tests Lake Monticello regularly, and more in the warmer summer months. “We can see if it is safe to swim and if the water is suitable for fish and aquatic plants to thrive. If levels are less than ideal, we work with Solitude to fix the problem, like when we placed fish habits in the Lake a few years ago,” said Henry. She says that according to Solitude’s testing, the lake is very healthy, and encourages people to check out their report here: https://lmoa.news/solitude-reports-positive-results/.

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About the Contributor
Photo of Emily Cheripka
Emily Cheripka, Journalist

Emily is in the 10th grade and in her first year of Journalism. She loves to do hair, makeup, and plays travel soccer. Her favorite movie is Titanic.

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