The Smith Mountain Lake Association advises that swimming be temporarily avoided in certain areas of the lake due to levels of bacteria that exceeded the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) standards for recreational waters.

In a letter released Thursday to its members, the SMLA states that water testing conducted on June 11 shows that three locations around the lake had bacteria levels that exceeded VDH’s standards. Those three locations included the headwaters of the Roanoke River near Bay Roc Marina; the end of Becky’s Creek near Bayside Marina and Yacht Club; and the end of the cove near Crystal Shores Marina.

“The SMLA does not recommend swimming in those areas at this time,” the letter states.

According to Michael McCord, the Smith Mountain Lake Association director of water quality monitoring, water testing is conducted by Ferrum College and occurs six times over the summer at 14 locations around the lake. The samples test for E. coli and other bacteria.

The SMLA letter states that the Smith Mountain Lake watershed experienced heavy rainfall in the week preceding the samples.

“During periods of heavy rainfall there is considerable runoff into the lake from the watershed area, which contains both livestock and farming,” the letter states. “Materials from these environments tend to include bacteria and/or promote growth of bacteria and/or algae.

Despite being near sites of high bacteria levels, “we find no reason to believe the marinas are causing this,” McCord said.

The next bacterial sampling will take place on June 25, and the results of those tests will be released when they become available.

“The lake usually corrects itself quickly, and we’ll retest in two weeks,” McCord said.

In the meantime, recreational activities such as swimming and boating can be enjoyed “in the vast majority of the lake as the water quality is good,” the SMLA letter states.

The SMLA also provided the following tips:

  • Do not swim after heavy rainfalls or around waterfowl, farm animals or wildlife.
  • Avoid getting water into your mouth or nose.
  • Do not swim with open wounds or sores.
  • Always take a shower after being in the water.

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