News from lake glow-be-gone


Dear A. Tom: Ace positively radiates with joy when he can answer readers’ questions, and yours is no exception. And so, to really melt down to the core of your query, Ace snapped on his triple-ply gore-tex gloves and dug into a heaping, radioactive pile of the truth.
    Lake Anna, Ace learned, is actually man-made. It was dug out in 1971 to serve as a coolant source for the nuclear plant that now operates under the aegis of Dominion Virginia Power. It wasn’t long until the area around Lake Anna started getting developed, and the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation opened a state park there in 1983. According to park manager Doug Graham, some 500 swimmers take to the lake every weekend, in addition to dozens of boaters and fishermen.
    So how safe is that water? Graham told Ace that park employees don’t test radiation levels in the lake (though he assures Ace they test for fecal coliform bacteria every month, and “those always come back good”). Next, Ace got in touch with Michelle Boyd, the energy legislative director of the watchdog group Public Citizen. Her group had raised questions about the site—and nuclear energy in general.
    “Our concern is chronic exposure to tritium, a radio-active form of water,” Boyd said about people swimming in the lake, which receives coolant water from the plant. Boyd told Ace, however, that Public Citizen hasn’t done any testing of Lake Anna, either. And to her knowledge, no radiation-related health problems have ever been reported in connection with the lake.