A lake in southern Argentina's Patagonia has turned bright pink - a startling but frightening phenomenon, in which experts and activists blame the pollution with a chemical used to preserve shrimp for export.
Activists say the color is caused by sodium sulfite, an antibacterial product used in fish factories, whose waste pollutes the Chubut River, which feeds the Corfo Lagoon and other water sources in the region.
Residents have long complained about bad smell and other environmental problems in the river and lagoon area.
"Those who have to control the situation give permission to poison people," environmental activist Pablo Lada told AFP, blaming the government for the disorder.
The lake's water turned pink last week and remained the same color on Sunday, said Lada, who lives in Trelevue, near the lake and about 1,400 kilometers south of Buenos Aires.
Environmental engineer and virologist Federico Restrepo told AFP that the coloration was caused by sodium sulfite in fish waste, which by law must be treated before being dumped.
In recent weeks, residents of Rawson, neighboring Treleu, have blocked the roads used by trucks transporting recycled fish waste through their streets to a sewage treatment plant on the outskirts of the city.
“Dozens of trucks come to us every day, the residents are already tired of this,” says Lada.
As Rawson was banned from the protest, the provincial government allowed factories to dump their waste into Corfo Lagoon.
“The reddish color is harmless and will disappear in a few days,” Juan Michelod, head of the Chubut province's environmental control department, told AFP last week.
Sebastian de la Vallina, planning secretary for the city of Treleu, disagreed: "You can't minimize something so serious."
Plants for processing fish for export, mainly shrimp and hake, create thousands of jobs in the Chubut province, which is home to some 600,000 people.
Dozens of foreign fishing companies operate in the area in the waters under the Atlantic jurisdiction of Argentina.
"Fish processing creates jobs … that's true. But these are multi-million dollar companies that don't want to pay to move waste to the wastewater treatment plant already in Puerto Madryn, 35 miles away, or build a plant closer to it," says Lada …