Russian Coal Plant Tells Instagrammers to Please Stop Taking Selfies in Its Pollution-Filled Waste Dump

Screenshot: Instagram

The turquoise water of a lake in Siberia looks like a tropical paradise, and it’s drawn in hundreds of Instagramers who have posed in and around the “Novosibirsk Maldives.” But it’s not white sands or microscopic plankton that give the water its unusual hue. The “lake” is actually a human-made ash dump, used to store toxic byproducts from a power plant’s burned coal.

“The water has a high alkaline environment,” wrote Siberian Generating Company (SGK)—a local power plant that dumps metal oxides like calcium salts into the lake—in statement posted on the Russia social network VKontakteon on Wednesday. “THEREFORE, WE ARE REQUESTING, DON’T GET INTO THE ASH DUMP TO TAKE A SELFIE!” the post reads.

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SGK wrote the statement in response to the slew of Instagram photos taken at the lake in recent weeks where the company dumps the ash from coal burned at the plant. The area has been a popular photography spot for a while, but it has seen increased public attention over the last month. “Last week, our ash dump Novosibirsk TEZ-5 has become the star of social networks,” the statement opens.

The post claims the lake is not poisonous, as plants grow in its vicinity, but that skin contact with the water can cause an allergic reaction. SGK also warns that the bottom of the ash dump is muddy, making it “almost impossible” to get out of the lake.

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Recently the human-made lake has become such a popular photo spot that Leo Alexey created an Instagram page exclusively for ash-dump selfies. Alexey told CNN he’s been to the lake a few times. “I go there every weekend but I don’t touch the water,” Alexy told CNN. “I just enjoy photography.”

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But some people intentionally take photos of themselves in the water, and post snarky comments about the calcium.

“It’s not dangerous to swim here,” reads a caption next to a post showing a man riding an inflatable unicorn in the water. “The next morning, my legs turned slightly red and itched for about two days.”

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This is just the latest example of influencers and tourists endangering themselves and the environment for Instagram shots. Last month, the creators of HBO’s Chernobyl had to ask Instagrammers to comport themselves with “respect” at the nuclear disaster site, which still isn’t safe for human habitation. And flocks of Instagrammers have recently led to overcrowding at a Candian sunflower farm and the California “superbloom” at Lake Elsinore.

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About the author

Jennings Brown

Senior editor and reporter at Gizmodo