Russians in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk are being asked to please stop staging Instagram shoots near a power plant’s toxic waste lake.
An artificial pond nicknamed the “Novosibirsk Maldives” for its bright blue water has become a picturesque backdrop for photographers who seemingly don’t care that its hue stems from an ashy brew of calcium salts and metal oxides.
Tens of thousands of people have visited the site according to a Russian “blogger” interviewed by the Siberian Times on Tuesday.
Instagram posts tagged with the location reveal photos of newlyweds and small babies, and bikini-clad women posing on its dirty shores. In another photo, someone is floating in the water on a unicorn inflatable while wearing a balaclava. “The next morning, my legs turned slightly red and itched for two days,” they wrote.
Two paddle-boarders who went out on the lake commented that a recent “chemical analysis” showed that it is “not so dangerous.”
An Instagram account called “Novosibirsk Maldives” has since popped up and is asking people to submit their own photos.
But the cerulean waters are no oasis. The lake’s owner, Siberian Generating Company, called it an “ash dump” in a post on Russian social media platform VK.
“Because of this,” it said, “we very kindly request that you refrain from taking selfies down in the ash dump!”
The company claims the pond is highly alkaline with a pH higher than 8—roughly the level of sea water. It also said the water is neither radioactive or poisonous, but warned that it may cause skin irritation. The company attributes its blue color to a particular combination of calcium salts and metal oxides—byproducts of ash from burning coal at a local thermal power station—that dissolve in the two- to six-feet-deep reservoir after being fed through a series of pipes. It said that another ash pond which receives runoff from burning a different type of coal “is usually colored normally.”
“Swimming in the ash dump is NOT ALLOWED,” the company’s VK post said. “Under the water is sludgy! Getting out from the water yourself is practically impossible.”
As one VK commenter wrote, there are signs posted around the lake that prohibit people from trespassing. The power plant has even attempted to close roads leading into the site, noted the Guardian, though it’s unclear whether this has stymied visitors.
So long as dangerous places exist, some internet rule dictates that people will go there, take photos, and post said photos to social media. Most recently, Instagram users were berated for posing at Chernobyl in the abandoned Ukrainian city of Pripyat.
Personally, I just don’t think a full-body rash is worth it.
Dane Maximov contributed translations for this story.