Lake Draining Mishap Likely a Result of Mechanical Failure

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A mechanical failure appears to be to blame for an unexpectedly fast draining of an entire lake on the campus of Piedmont Virginia Community College. It flushed water and fish down the drain into an Albemarle County creek Sunday.

The college's staff met with inspectors from the Department of Environmental Quality late Monday. The DEQ says there's no evidence of negligence in the sudden lake drain.

The lake, at the dam on PVCC's Albemarle County campus, is no longer draining. The Virginia community college system is in charge of the $200,000 project to replace a valve that hasn't been touched since 1996.

A contractor opened that valve Saturday to start lowering the water level. The slow drain was supposed to take four to five days and keep enough water in the lake for fish to survive. Instead, nearly all the water and most of the fish rushed out into Moore's Creek in 24 hours.

“We've ensured the community that we're going to do anything necessary to make sure the project is completed in the proper manner and the timely manner and that our lake will resort back to a healthy, thriving lake,” said Stephen Parker, vice president for finance and administrative services at PVCC.

The state believes the aging valve failed, allowing too much water to flow out of the lake. Engineers and the contractor are coming up with a plan to move forward with replacing the valve.

DEQ inspectors say there's no evidence of a fish kill. They believe the lake's fish survived and are now in the creek.

The department does not expect the community college system to face any fines.