Nfld. & Labrador

Bubble trouble: Turning Manuels River into a bubble bath not allowed

Manuels River is not a tub. That fact, however, didn’t occur to the people who tried turning the popular swimming hole into a bubble bath over the weekend, vandalizing a boardwalk and risking jail time in the process.
Interpretation centre staff found these bottles scattered around the trail after an attempt at turning Manuels River into a bathtub. (Submitted)

Manuels River in the town of Conception Bay South is not a tub. That fact, however, didn't occur to the people who tried turning the popular swimming hole into a bubble bath over the weekend, vandalizing a boardwalk and risking jail time in the process.

Staff at the nearby interpretation centre found evidence — multiple empty bottles of soap, bubble bath and shampoo —littered around the edge of the river, a popular draw in the St. John's area. 

The Manuels River Interpretation Centre's Rod Taylor tells Gary Moore why dumping bubble soap in the river hurts the plants and animals that live there. 6:50

"Soaps can actually cause fish to lose some of the mucus covering they have on the outside of their skin which makes them susceptible to disease and to parasites," Dr. Rod Taylor told CBC Radio's On The Go.

"It can also affect insect larvae to prevent them from growing naturally."

Long term, the interpretation centre's lead interpreter says extra chemicals can change oxygen levels in the water which, in turn, makes it harder for insects and fish to survive.

Boards from the nearby walking trail were used to slow the flow of water at Manuels River. (Submitted)

Protected area

Downstream from the attempted bathtub, there are 500-million-year-old fossils.

"It's an important locality that scientists have been working on periodically since the 1870s when they were first discovered," Taylor said.

"About five years ago, the provincial government passed legislation to protect the site."

Taylor says in speaking to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, he learned people or organizations involved in polluting Manuels River could face fines. And, if it were to occur multiple times, guilty parties could get jail time.

"It's certainly something that's not just a fun and games situation on the river. It can lead to legal and financial problems."

Dr. Rod Taylor is the lead interpreter at the Manuels River Interpretation Centre. (Gary Moore)

Boardwalk damage

Vandals tried plugging the river with pieces of boardwalk they stole from the trail that lines the river.

Taylor says it's about a 2.5-kilometre walk from the interpretation centre to the damaged area.

"To actually get materials in here to do repairs on the trail, or to have to carry out large amounts of garbage is very difficult," he said.

"We can get a wheelbarrow probably about two-thirds of a kilometre from the center upstream the rest of the way you walk through the forest."

Taylor said he's not sure yet who's responsible for damaging the Manuels River ecosystem and boardwalk.

So, for now, the culprits have gotten away clean.

With files from Gary Moore

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