Near the Siberian largest city of Novosibirsk, there is a number of small artificial ponds that are made to serve as dumps for disposal of ash coming from the power plant production as a byproduct. In order not to get scattered all over the area, it is being mixed with water in the plants’ facilities and released through pipes into the previously prepared, dug-out large basins.
By an intoxicating pull that social media can have on the users, one of the pools being used for the coal ash unload has become rapidly recognized as one of the most desirable places in Russia to take a photo or a selfie. The basin itself has been nicknamed the “Novosibirsk Maldives” for the mesmerizingly blue water resembling the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, with waves peacefully lapping against the shore of the Maldives.
The Siberian Generating Company (SGK) officials have issued a statement with the most earnest warning to potential swimmers to stay away from the water. They revealed the official name of the ash dump is Novosibirsk TEZ-5, and the appealing azure color is produced in a chemical reaction of calcium salts and other metal oxides from the brown coal ash with water. The depth of the basin ranges from one to two meters. The energy company gave an example of another ash dump (TEZ-3) where the same chemical compounds do not have the same fascinating blue effect due to the more shallow dug-out.
In the statement, the SGK management emphasizes that the water is not poisonous, “there are no seagulls to see flying around, and the plants do not die.” The water’s radioactivity is within normal limits, which has been established by two laboratories working independently. But it is impossible to swim there! The chemical reactions make the water a highly concentrated alkaline environment, with a pH level of more than 8. The normal pH level for human skin is between 4 and 6, with an average of 5.5. Skin contact with such water may cause an intense allergic reaction!
An even more dangerous reason for this alarming concern is the mud, produced in the water coming in contact with the waste. The maximal depth may not seem that dangerous, at least not to experienced swimmers, but the officials stress that it is impossible to come out of the mud by oneself, once the person gets stuck. Imagine what harm can be produced by inhaling and involuntarily drinking the water with a pH level higher than 8, which, by the WHO’s (World Health Organization) standard would be classified as “most raw water,” until the help comes. Provided there is anyone to help.
Judging by the continual series of new photographs shared on Instagram before and after the warning has been issued, and the statements of the visitors still coming, the level of awareness has been raised.
Let us hope that a wedding memory by the water, or sporting a scantily clad pose on a paddleboard, and riding an inflatable unicorn and other water toy animals will be saved for the safe bodies of water.