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article imageSecret of Canada's Neon Green River revealed

By J Ocean Dennie     Jan 6, 2011 in Environment
Residents of Canada's Vancouver Island will be sleeping easier now that they know what led to the completely bizarre neon green discoloration of one of the major rivers flowing through the south part of the island.
The iconic watershed, saddled with the ironic moniker Goldstream River, unexpectedly turned neon green last week, scaring residents and concerning area biologists. The colour of the water is similar to that found in the photo to the left. At first, it was not clear whether the odd hue was a result of a toxic spill or a natural phenomenon. No one was sure what effect the contamination would have on the sensitive rainforest ecosystem. While, the river is a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts visiting Goldstream Provincial Park, it is also known for its abundant salmon runs, eagles, and unique flora.
Water samples taken by government officials now conclusively reveal that the culprit of the water's unusual colour was fluorescein, a tracing product used primarily to uncover rainwater leads in environmental simulations and diagnose numerous medical conditions. Thankfully the chemical is non-toxic.
Dan Gilmore, B.C.'s environment ministry spokesman, reassured the public in a statement saying that "Fluorescein is a synthetic organic compound soluble in water and alcohol. It is widely used as a fluorescent tracer for many applications. The product itself and its products of degradation are not toxic." The concentration used in this incident was not enough apparently to cause any acute damage to wildlife.
Any industrial accident has been ruled out and the incident is now being considered as a prank since a public fountain in the community nearest the river, Langford, B.C. also spewed neon green around the same time, according to The Vancouver Sun.
The Daily Brew reports that, according to Langford Mayor Stew Young, only a small amount of the chemical is necessary to change the colour of a river. "It's a non-polluting chemical that's really bright green. It's probably some idiots with a bit of knowledge," he said.
This would not be the first time fluorescein has ended up subversively in a river system. In 1962, it was used to dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day.
While fluorescein is non-toxic organic compound, bodily contact with the chemical can lead to acute skin and eye irritations, as well inflammation of the digestive and respiratory tracts. It could also potentially cause anaphylactic shock.
Witnesses who saw the river bedazzled river claim it looked like antifreeze and was so bright it hurt to look at it directly, Yahoo News wrote.
Thankfully, the brilliant neon green has leached away and the river is back to normal, (or so we've been told).
More about River, Neon green, Fluorescein, Goldstream, Vancounver island
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