Frequently Instagrammed Russian Lake Has a Toxic Secret

The origin of its brilliant colors is extremely hazardous

Lake
The color of that lake has an unnerving origin
Sergey/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / July 14, 2019 1:02 pm

There’s a joy that can come from finding an Instagram-ready vista. There’s that sense of a beatific landscape, a certain combination of scenic beauty and rich colors — and, of course, the ever-present smell of toxic waste.

Novosibirsk TEZ-5 in Russia has drawn a number of Instagram users in recent months due to the natural beauty around it and the fantastic colors of its waters. It’s not hard to see why people would be attracted to it: it’s a landscape that’s calling out for its closeup — and it’s served as the backdrop for selfies, wedding photos, and other images where the lake’s striking colors will catch someone’s eye.

Unfortunately, the gorgeous colors of its waters are not due to natural means. Instead, they’re the result of toxic runoff from a local power plant — which has resulted in local administrators warning photographers to stay far from its waters lest they put their health at risk. 

The warning issued by the company running the power plant is pretty unambiguous as to why you should stay away from it:

In the last week, our ash dump of the Novosibirsk TEZ-5 has become the star of social networks. But you CANNOT swim in the ash dump. Its water has a high-alkaline environment.

All of this pushes this beloved Russian lake out of the “beautiful and scenic splendor” camp and ever-so-slightly closer to “nightmare fuel” territory. And if you’re looking for a warning of why high-alkaline lakes are dangerous, Nick Brandt’s photographs of petrified animals in Tanzania’s Lake Natron are a good place to start.

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