Ashburn Farm Looks at Clean-Energy Pond Aeration

The sight of dozens of dead fish turning up in an Ashburn Farm pond has prompted the homeowner’s association to consider using the natural elements to aerate the water.

During the weekend of June 1, dozens of fish turned up dead in Gardengate Pond. After an investigation, the Ashburn Farm Association determined that low amounts of dissolved oxygen caused by a sudden Saturday night rain storm killed the fish—something that hasn’t happened there in at least five years. With no aerator in the pond to catalyze the oxygen dissolution process, the HOA is looking to install one now. But because the nearest electrical outlet is hundreds of feet away, running a line from there to the pond to power an aerator would cost more than $14,000. Instead, the HOA is considering installing an aerator powered by the wind or the sun.

Association Manager Jeremy Cushman said the association is looking to install an aerator that’s aesthetically pleasing for residents and financially sensible, noting that a wind- or solar-powered system would cut the cost in half.

Cushman said that a nature-powered system would cost the HOA somewhere around $5,000 to install. That would be on top of the $3,500 aerator-installation cost, which would be the same whether it’s powered via an electric outlet or by the elements.

If the HOA chooses a solar system, Cushman said it could be installed on the side of the pond and look similar the equipment powering school-zone speed limit signs around the county. That system would feature two small solar panels fixed to the top of a 12-foot-tall pole.

If the HOA goes with a wind-powered system, Cushman said that would come in the form of a small windmill located beside the pond in the most exposed space to harness the most wind possible. “Anything we do will obviously improve [the low dissolved oxygen issues],” Cushman said.

Cushman said that while a solar-powered system would provide the aerator with a more consistent flow of electricity, a windmill might fit better in Ashburn Farm, considering the HOA features a 45-foot-tall windmill at its headquarters just a mile down the road.

When asked if the HOA, which manages the 3,862-home community, would consider opting for the installation of a fountain in the Gardengate Pond instead of an aerator, Cushman said that while a fountain might look nice, it would cost about the same as an aerator and would do the same job much less effectively.

Cushman acknowledged that it’s also “not the most common thing” for HOAs to have aerators in their ponds.

Rick Stone, the general manager of the Brambleton Community Association, said that his HOA, which manages 1,000 more homes than Ashburn Farm, has an aerator installed in only one of its 15 ponds.

The association is now working to compile mailers with information on the project to send to about 20 residents along Gardengate Circle. Cushman said residents would have the chance to email or call the association to provide feedback. “We always try to balance budget versus aesthetics versus what the community is asking for,” he said.

From there, the HOA will select a design and identify a funding source, which could be its capital improvement, pond maintenance or pond enhancement budget.

Cushman said the HOA board could take a vote to approve the aerator purchase and installation as early as its July 2 meeting. He said the aerator could be installed in the pond before August or September.

The association is also discussing whether it needs to restock the pond with more fish, which include bluegills and striped and largemouth bass.

pszabo@loudounnow.com

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