A prank is probably responsible for turning water in the Goldstream River fluorescent green late Wednesday afternoon.
Horrified nature-lovers watched as water flowing past the Goldstream Park picnic area mysteriously changed colour.
While onlookers worried about the effect on fish and wildlife, water samples were collected by the Langford Fire Department and handed to teams from the provincial Environment Ministry.
“Ministry staff believe the cause of the colouring is a water-tracing dye used in the testing of sanitary water systems,” said Environment Ministry spokesman Dan Gilmore Wednesday evening.
Two samples will be reviewed Thursday and the ministry considers the incidents to be vandalism, he said.
If the green colouring is confirmed to be water-testing dye, it is not known to be harmful to fish and wildlife.
The fluorescent green, which some park visitors said was so bright it hurt the eyes, apparently started at least 500 metres on the Victoria side of the park entrance.
The river, known for its chum salmon runs, eagles and other wildlife, returned to its usual colour within an hour, but green colouring then flowed into the environmentally-sensitive estuary.
Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett said a fountain beside Veterans Memorial Parkway in Langford also ran green Wednesday morning.
“I don’t know if the two are related,” he said.
Langford Mayor Stew Young said he is aware of the dye used to test for sewage or water leaks and only a small amount is needed to change the colour of a river or lake.
“It’s a non-polluting chemical that’s really bright green. It’s probably some idiots with a bit of knowledge,” he said.
Investigators are taking the matter seriously because of the sensitive ecosystem around the river, Beckett said.
“If it is a prank I hope the ministry takes appropriate action against anyone who would do something so foolish,” he said.
Park naturalist Bre Spathamsaid she was first alerted by phone calls from drivers.
The colour was alarming, she said.
“It looked as if someone had dumped a package of bright green Kool-Aid in the river,” she said.
Jane London was in the park with her five-year-old son Miles when the colour changed.
“It looked a little like antifreeze, but there was way too much. The whole river was flowing green from the bridge right down as far as we could see,” she said.
“There was no odour. It was like some sort of chemical reaction. My son was just astounded, but we didn’t stick around for too long,” London said.
Shayne Kaye and Tyson Elder were taking wildlife photographs when the river turned green.
“It was bizarre and surreal. You’re in a wilderness area and the water turns bright, fluorescent green. It was nothing you would see in nature,” Elder said.
Kaye and Elder traced the pools of green up-river and figured the colour could have been dumped into a storm drain.
“It was a little on the weird side, but it didn’t look as if it was leaving any residue,” Kaye said.