Lake Anna algae bloom could cause rashes and illness

WASHINGTON — The Virginia Department of Health is telling residents to avoid swimming in certain parts of Lake Anna in Orange, Louisa and Spotsylvania counties due to a harmful algae bloom.

It is however, still safe to swim from the beach at Lake Anna State Park.

Water samples taken both in August and on Sept. 5 show concentrated levels of a harmful algae, called cyanobacteria. The algae can cause rashes and skin irritation, and if ingested, various levels of gastrointestinal distress including upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Some areas already have warning signs, but the state is advising swimmers to avoid the following areas:

A “no-swimming advisory” is in place for the Upper Pamunkey Branch of Lake Anna east of the Route 522 bridge; the Upper North Anna Branch of Lake Anna near Goldmine Creek and Fisherman’s Cove.

There are other areas where potentially harmful algae has been detected, but recent water samples do not warrant restricting access, the state said. Those locations include:

  • Upper-Middle Pamunkey Branch of Lake Anna at Simms Point/Harris Lane
  • Lower-Middle Pamunkey Branch of Lake Anna at Route 719 “Dillard’s Bridge”
  • Upper-Middle North Anna Branch of Lake Anna at Route 522 bridge
  • Christopher Creek Branch of Lake Anna north of Route 522 bridge

An interactive map that is updated through November is available from the department of health’s website. In a news release, the state said it will continue to monitor algae levels this fall. The next measurement will occur in late September.

The state reports that recent periods of heavy rain and high temperatures produced conditions conducive to an algae bloom. The department of health recommends that people avoid contact with water close to areas where scum can be seen on the surface, and prevent children and pets from drinking from natural bodies of water.

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Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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