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Salmon Cove wants answers on water discolouration, dead fish in river and ponds

Water in the river and ponds of Salmon Cove has discoloured, and dead fish are being found by residents. (Mike Simms/CBC)

The eastern Newfoundland town of Salmon Cove is telling people to stay out of the water, from Forest Pond to a popular nearby beach, until it gets answers about discolouration found in a river that runs through the Conception Bay North community.

Deputy Mayor Edna Lambert told CBC News on Tuesday that residents told her on Friday about what they were concerned was pollution from a nearby waste treatment facility, but she said she doesn’t want to speculate about the cause.

“There is a lot of greenish-blue water that’s been there for quite some time, apparently,” Lambert said. 

“We have been in contact with the Department of Fisheries. They’re doing tests and things on the water. The signs have been put up, ‘No Swimming,’ and until we get answers from the DFO and the other departments we’ve been in contact with, we cannot give any answers to anybody.”

Other residents say the discoloured water could be due to an algae bloom due to warmer water temperatures and humidity. Either way, residents are finding dead fish in the river, which is popular for salmon fishing. The town is situated just north of Carbonear, roughly an hour west of St. John’s, and home to the popular Salmon Cove Sands beach.

Nobody knows for sure why the water in this river near Salmon Cove has turned green, but the town and its residents want answers. (Garry Butt/Facebook)

The province’s Department of Environment and Climate Change told CBC News in a statement that it, along with federal departments, is working to determine the source of the discolouration and the dead fish. The department said its water resources management division has been to the site to take water samples, and took a second sample Tuesday. A spokesperson said results are expected later this week. 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada told CBC News it was made aware of the situation on Monday and has started an investigation.


One thing at the top of mind for the town and its residents is the implications the situation could have on the tourism season. 

Resident Eric Penney said the sandy beach is a common hot spot for swimming and boating while salmon anglers take to the river. He said it’s not uncommon for the water in the area to change colours for a few days each summer, but hasn’t seen it last this long before — or with dead fish.  

WATCH | Residents of the Salmon Cove area want to know why a popular waterway has changed colour, and how fish have died: 

Henrike Wilhelm reports from Salmon Cove, N.L., where waters have become discoloured and fish have died 2:10

“When you look at something like this, obviously you can’t use this water for recreation. I wouldn’t eat the fish, I wouldn’t swim in it, I wouldn’t let my kids swim in it, I wouldn’t boat in it,” he said. 

“It’s gone right now, as far as I’m concerned.”

Lambert said people from all over the island visit her community each summer, and non-recreational travel from other Atlantic provinces allowed as of Wednesday, she’s concerned tourists won’t be able to enjoy what the community has to offer. 

Salmon Cove Deputy Mayor Edna Lambert is asking people to refrain from swimming until results from water tests are returned. (Mike Simms/CBC)

“All they’ll be able to do is go down on the beach and read a book. The kids will not enjoy the swimming area,” she said. 

“I think it’s time for the government to look into this a bit further and get the details that we need. Somebody has to fix it.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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