Aerial photo of an algal bloom. © 2010 Morgan Hein/iLCP
Problems Facing the Lafayette
High Bacteria Levels/Low Oxygen Levels
Although anglers enjoy ample fishing opportunities from the Lafayette, shellfish harvest has been prohibited for years due to high bacteria levels. The once vibrant oyster population is down to a fraction of its historic levels due to pollution, disease, and lack of viable habitat. Sadly, algal blooms have become a routine summer occurrence, an ominous sign that the waterway is not healthy beneath the surface. These unsightly swirls of mahogany colored algae lead to low dissolved oxygen levels that can kill oysters as well as crabs. Learn more about dead zones.
Harmful Stormwater Runoff
Located within one of the most urban areas in the Chesapeake Bay region, the Lafayette River is plagued with problems stemming from an overabundance of paved surfaces. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and bacteria from a variety of sources—including stormwater runoff, which carries lawn fertilizer, pet waste, motor oil, and pesticides from yards and streets—funnel into storm drains and creeks which feed into the river. The building boom in Norfolk took place from the 1900s to the 1950s, before the importance of water quality was understood. Many wetlands, which provide valuable filtration, are gone or threatened, and much of the city's stormwater system leads polluted water right into our waterways. Learn more about stormwater runoff.