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Argentina lagoon turns a stunning, stinky pink due to pollution

An aerial view of the Corfo lagoon that turned pink due to a chemical used to help shrimp conservation in fishing factories near Trelew, in the Patagonian province of Chubut, Argentina, on July 23, 2021. DANIEL FELDMAN/AFP via Getty Images

Spectacular photos only tell half the story at the Corfo Lagoon in Argentina, where the water has turned a striking shade of pink due to stinky, contaminated fish waste.

The water at the lagoon is typically blue, but activists say it took on a bright pink hue last week after local authorities reportedly permitted fish-processing plants to dump their waste in the nearby Chubut river, which feeds the lagoon.

Locals say the water now reeks of pollution due to the waste.

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“The coloration is due to a preservative called sodium sulfite,” Federico Restrepo, a local activist and environmental engineer, told the AFP. “It is an antibacterial that also contaminates the waters of the Chubut River and waters of the cities of the region.”

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The chemical is used to prepare prawn for export at the local fish-processing plants. Those plants are required by law to treat their waste before dumping it, but one town has reportedly given them a pass on that rule.

An aerial view of a lagoon that turned pink due to a chemical used to help shrimp conservation in fishing factories near Trelew, in the Patagonian province of Chubut, Argentina, on July 23, 2021. DANIEL FELDMAN/AFP via Getty Images

“Those who should be in control are the ones who authorize the poisoning of people,” environmental activist Pablo Lada told the AFP.

Lada is one of several activists who are sounding the alarm about the lagoon, which is located in the Patagonian region of Argentina, near the towns of Trelew and Rawson.

The area is home to fish-processing plants that typically send their waste to a nearby treatment centre on trucks. However, Rawson residents have grown fed-up with the pollution and the stinky shipments, so they stepped up earlier this month to cut off the route entirely.

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“We get dozens of trucks daily,” Lada said. “The residents are getting tired of it.”

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City officials responded to the blockade by easing pollution guidelines at the affected plants.

Some of those officials say the pollution is nothing to worry about.

“The reddish colour does not cause damage and will disappear in a few days,” Juan Micheloud, the environmental control chief for Chubut province, told AFP last week.

The lagoon is not used for swimming but it still poses a concern to local residents, according to Sebastian de la Vallina, Trelew’s planning secretary.

“It is not possible to minimize something so serious,” he told the AFP.

Corfo’s colour is unnatural, but there are a handful of naturally occurring pink lagoons in the world. The most famous one is Lake Hillier, one of several pink bodies of water in Australia.

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India’s Lonar Crater Lake mysteriously turned pink overnight last year. Experts suspected at the time that it was due to a combination of algae and high salinity levels in the water.

The water at Corfo was still pink on Monday, according to local reports.

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