Sep 09, 2016 I Paul Seaburn

Siberian River Mysteriously Turns Blood Red

Is it blood red? Burgundy? Crimson? Does the shade of red really matter when it’s the color of your town’s main river you’re discussing? Residents of the Siberian city of Norilsk want some answers – not to mention some clean water – as to why the Daldykan River has suddenly turned a color of red not normally associated with water.

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Satellite view of the red Daldykan River

As usual, doomsayers say it’s a sign of doom, alien hunters say it’s aliens and government officials say they don’t know what it is but they had nothing to do with it. Local reports say the river turned red quickly and without warning. Well, unless you count all of the times Norilsk has had red snow as warnings.


When there’s crimson rivers and red snow in a populated area, that usually means there’s a lot of people who depend on a large local employer in the chemical business. Norilsk is considered to be one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world and some of that pollution comes from Norilsk Nickel, a Russian nickel and palladium mining and smelting company whose headquarters are in Moscow but whose largest operation is in its namesake town.

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Norilsk Nickel factory

Why Norilsk? Well, when your smelting operation is responsible for an estimated one percent of the entire global emission of sulfur dioxide, you put it someplace remote where it’s a long way from headquarters and the people are grateful for any kind of job, even one at a plant that puts so much metal in the air, it can be mined from the soil again.

Needless to say, a leak at Norilsk Nickel upstream from Norilsk is the likely culprit for the red Daldykan River. But where there’s smoke, there’s other chemical companies. The Hope Metals Plant has a reservoir on its site near Norilsk that is – you guessed it – red. It’s possible that wastewater filled with minerals and pollutants from Hope Metals Plant leaked into the Daldykan River and changed its color.

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Pipeline? What pipeline?

While it’s important to determine who is responsible for the red river, locals are more concerned with the danger to their drinking water, crop irrigation and other uses. In its statement, Norilsk Nickel appears to be washing its hands – although probably not in the river.

As of today, the polar division of the [Norilsk Nickel] company cannot confirm any leakage or accidental discharge of industrial waste into the Daldykan River, which could have affected the river’s state.

Grigory Dukarev of the Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the Taimir Peninsula, which represents native communities in the Norilsk area, says he’s been told before that factory runoffs were harmless to people and caused minimal damage to the environment.

I'm going to ask the representative from the company to drink this water. Will they drink this water? I doubt that.

Red river, red snow .. but no red faces when it comes to accepting responsibility. People may be different around the world, but big businesses are all the same.

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Will the Daldykan River ever look like this again?

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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