Pictures of the Daldykan river in Russia’s Arctic city of Norilsk have emerged, showing the river dyed a deep red colour.
Though no conclusive evidence has yet been presented to explain the unnatural water colour, one theory is that pollution from a nearby nickel refinery has caused the red hue. Russian authorities have issued an order to investigate the nickel factory for possible pipeline breaks or leaks.
Norilsk does, however, have a poor track record when it comes to maintaining sound ecological standards. Last August, Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology, Sergey Donskoy, rated the city as one of the most environmentally-polluted in the country.
Photographs of the red river first came to light on Tuesday, though some reports claim the Daldykan had changed its hue as early as June this year.
Images of the red river have since gone viral. They show the river coloured a deep crimson, with many liken the colour to a "bloody red" and joking the phenomenon is a "bad omen".
SBS Science spoke to Dr Simon Apte, a Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO Land and Water, about the river’s red hue. His thoughts are if the nickel factory is to blame, it’s highly unlikely the nickel element would have much effect on the pollution.
“It would be something to do with the refining process, not the nickel itself,” he says. “Nickel that comes out of the refining process is way, way less than one per cent, so it’s more likely to be because of the waste.”
Whether the effluent from the factory would affect local ecosystems, however, he says is hard to tell.
“It depends on the makeup of the effluent and the refining process and technology within the factory,” he says.
As for what’s caused the river’s red colour itself, Dr Apte says it’s much too early to make any calls:
“It’s very difficult to tell, but the last time I’ve ever heard of a river turning red, it was when there was hematite found in the water, which is not very toxic. But that clearly means nothing right now.”
For now, we have to await the results of Russia's investigation.