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Solving the gas-powered boat mystery at Swift Creek Reservoir

CHESTERFIELD, Va. — Thousands of Chesterfield residents rely on the Swift Creek Reservoir for drinking water and great steps are taken to protect the natural resource.

In the past few weeks concerned viewers have contacted CBS 6 about gas-powered boats spotted on the water at Swift Creek.

A decades old ordinance prohibits the operation of any internal combustion engine on the reservoir.

Aaron Natoli and his buddy Huck Blaudelt were bass fishing on the reservoir for most of the day Thursday. They said it is one of their favorite spots because it’s so tranquil, though from time to time gas-powered boats come along and stir things up a bit.

“I’ve seen some gas motors out here but didn’t think much of it,”Natoli said. “I just know there’s only supposed to be electric engines here because it’s a reservoir.”

The two friends noticed a gas boat Thursday on the reservoir. So did another CBS 6 news viewer who contacted the station, concerned that the boat was violating the county’s ordinance.

We investigated and flagged down the boat. The men onboard said they were conducting official county business, assessing Hydrilla, a water weed, in the lake.

Chesterfield County confirmed that there are a few exceptions to that county ordinance.

“Police and fire obviously, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will ask permission to go on the reservoir with their gas boat from time to time,” said George Hayes, Assistant Director of Utilities. “We also have our water quality analysts taking samples throughout the year.”

“We have in the past had people mistake our boat for a private boat; it’s a white nineteen foot Carolina skiff with the county seals on each side,” Hayes said.

He said he’s glad citizens are being extra vigilant on the water and are keeping their eyes peeled for violators, and that he understands their concerns.

“The Swift Creek Reservoir is a water supply,” Hayes said. “That’s the concern with the gas boats—that the petroleum products will be detrimental to the water supply because it is a drinking water source.”

He said if boaters spot someone in a private gas-powered boat, they should err on the side of caution and call the non-emergency police number to report it. That number is 804-748-1251.

Boaters who knowingly and repeatedly violate the ordinance could end up in court and a judge would decide their penalty.

10 comments

  • James

    Don’t you know? If you make it into Chesterfield Government, then the rules don’t apply. Its how they let you know how important they are. Besides they could not possibly use an electric motor for water sampling.

  • Befuddled

    So why contact a news station….call somebody as soon as you see it that can do something. Everybody always looking for a chance to get their name in print or on the tv. Doesnt really matter since THEIR gas engines are ok to use but everyone elses are harmful. Hmmm

  • Matt

    The ban on gas motors at Swift Creek Resevoir has nothing to do with drinking water safety. It is because the surrounding neighborhoods (Woodlake and Brandermill) don’t want gas motors. Whatever the reason (tranquility or property value issues and the like), they don’t want gas powered boats. There are plenty of resevoirs that are used to provide water to localities that allow gas motors. Lake Chesdin supplies water to Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie and more. While there is a 45 mph speed limit, horsepower is unlimited and gas motors are prevalent. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the article implies that the presence of gas motors on Swift Creek is somehow contaminating the water supply. The truth is, the property owners(and Chesterfield County) want the resevoir to be exactly what it is, a place for electric trolling motors and sailboats. I, for one, don’t think there is anything wrong with that. It is a beautiful place that fits well in the community and serves many people. My concern is the implication that boats with gas motors, or the boaters that use them are “detrimental to the watersource”. As a lifelong boater, my experience has been that the people that use the waterways (via gas or electric power) take great care in preserving the quality of the resource. Perhaps the concern for the quality of the water that we drink would be better focused on the beautiful green lawns of the surrounding yards. The runoff from these areas is a far more likely cause of contamination than the boats that prompted this article in the first place.

  • JC

    You must like drinking gasoline, sir. Let me guess, you also like NASCAR and you wrote this while the NRA meeting was in recess.

    • Dave

      Yah b/c that’s how internal combustion works- clean reservoir water in, pure pollutin’ gasoline out. You should maybe educate yourself about water purification. Also google “generalization”. Not cool to assume boaters all love car racing and guns, sorta like blacks with fried chicken & watermelon?

  • facts

    Evidently some of the less informed readers clearly do not have the facts. Less that 25% of the counties drink in water is pulled from swift creek reservoir. The majority of the drinking water comes from Chestnut and the James river, where gasoline engines are allowed and used daily. The reason gas engines are banned has NOTHING to do with water pollution and everything to do with noise pollution. Before someone makes assumptions it would be beneficial to learn the actual facts.

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