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Newfoundland officials want bubble baths in waterfalls, rivers to stop

Tourists have poured bottles of shampoo and soap into a water basin called the Canyon at a Newfoundland park. Facebook / The Manuels River experience

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – People have been creating elaborate bubble baths in Newfoundland waterways, and the government wants it to stop.

Photos on social media show a half-dozen young people surrounded by thick, deep bubbles in a natural pool at the bottom of a small waterfall at a park south of St. John’s.

“They’re having parties on the river and sometimes they just get carried away,” Rod Taylor, a lead science interpreter at the Manuels River Interpretation Centre, said Wednesday.

Eleanor Power, another interpreter at Manuels River, said people have for years tried to make bubbles in an area known as the Canyon west of St. John’s, but it’s happening more often and the damage is growing.

The last two weekends, she said, people have poured shampoo and bubble bath into the water, and also ripped up the boardwalk.

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“They tried to use some of the boards to bar off the water, for the bubble bath they were trying to create, for that hot tub effect,” she said.

She said phosphates in the soaps can hurt fish and kill smaller marine life, upsetting the river’s food chain.

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The centre has released a photo of six empty bottles found in the area, “very cheap bottles of dollar-store bubble soap and shampoo and actual bubble-blowing solution, like kids would use,” she said.

The provincial government says the same thing has happened elsewhere — the bubble photo seen on social media was apparently taken at La Manche Provincial Park — and it is investigating and may bring charges.

“Adding soap to a waterway is not a harmless game — it is illegal and is an act of pollution,” Perry Trimper, the Environment and Conservation minister, said in a statement.

“This is a dangerous activity, which can be harmful to fish and other animals in the habitat. Our environment is sensitive and we must protect it.”

Taylor said the bathers appear to be coming at night, when the non-profit centre isn’t staffed. The Canyon is a half-hour hike into the centre’s trail system, and he said last weekend vandals actually wrested planks in the boardwalk, “just for larks as far as I can tell.”

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He said he grew up in the area, and locals knew to tread lightly on nature. Today, however, young people are doing whatever they want with indifference, he said.

He and Power hope some publicity about an investigation and possible charges might change that.

“If the people didn’t realize how serious it really is, if they’re educated about it, perhaps that’ll convince them not to do it again,” said Power.

Some other recent examples of Canadian tourists behaving badly:

– A Quebec man and his son loaded a Yellowstone National Park bison calf into their vehicle on May 9, 2016, because they thought it was an abandoned newborn that would die without their help. The calf was later euthanized because it couldn’t be reunited with its herd after being handled. Shamash Kassam was fined $235 and ordered to pay $500 to a Yellowstone protection fund after pleading guilty to intentionally disturbing wildlife.

– Two Saskatchewan siblings spent three days in jail after stripping naked on top of a sacred mountain in Malaysia on May 30, 2105. Lindsey and Danielle Petersen said they were not aware of the spiritual significance of Mount Kinabalu when they were among 10 foreigners who stripped and took photos. A local official claimed their behaviour caused an earthquake a few days later that killed 18 climbers. They pleaded guilty to public indecency, fined the equivalent of about $1,600 Canadian each and were immediately deported.

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– A drunk man smoking a cigar took a dip in a thermal pool that is home to a type of endangered snail in Banff National Park in November, 2014. Bailey Thomas Townsend, 27, was fined $4,500 after pleading guilty to entering a restricted area. He was caught bathing at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the only place where the Banff springs snail is found, despite being warned not to.

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