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Feb. 29, 2020 | Saturday
Local News
'Natural process' blamed for massive foam at the Lower Virgil Dam and Reservoir

 

When Harvey Schulz saw a massive amount of foam oozing over a bridge on Four Mile Creek on Saturday, he wasn’t sure what he was witnessing.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake resident was out for a morning walk near the Lower Virgil Dam and Reservoir when he saw the foam overflowing the bridge and filling much of the creek. 

Most of the foam was gone the next day.

But Schulz had taken a few photos and his wife Sandie contacted The Lake Report.

After the paper reached out to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, two water resources technicians visited the reservoir Monday to investigate but there wasn’t much foam left, said the organization’s spokesperson Erika Navarro.

“Our water quality specialist has advised us that the foam formation at that property appears to be caused by a natural process in which organic matter (vegetation) decomposes in the watershed, which releases fatty acids that act as surfactants or surface-active agents,” Navarro said in an email.

“These are foam-producing molecules from turbulence (riffles and waterfalls) that cause the fatty acids to form small bubbles that develop into the foam.”

“Large amounts of foam can accumulate downstream in stream eddies or against docks, logs, bridges and other floating objects.”

Foam accumulation has been happening on streams and creeks throughout the last fall and winter due to mild winter with several wet weather events, she said.

Navarro said the excessive foam at Virgil’s reservoir was likely caused by heavy rainfall last week, runoff with natural foam-forming compounds and the large drop-off created by the waterfalls at the dam.

The water technicians also collected a water sample but results weren’t immediately available, said Navarro.

There was also no indication the foam is harmful. The agency collected water samples containing foam on Four Mile Creek in 2019 and no water quality concerns were identified, she said.

There was also no indication the foam is harmful. In 2019, the agency collected water samples containing foam on Four Mile Creek but there were no concerns regarding water quality, Navarro said.

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