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.
“It’s frustrating, it’s a real shame to see.”
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.
“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.
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.”
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.