Mysterious Foam Plagues Green River


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from River Wire, March 26, 2007)

An unusual foamy substance covering part of the surface of the Green River in Utah’s Desolation Canyon has river runners and the Bureau of Land Management concerned about possible dangerous contaminants.

After reports from observers last week about the foul, petroleum-smelling foam, the BLM dispatched a ranger to the Sand Wash confluence near the put-in for the popular Desolation Canyon river trip, to take water samples. Concern increased when the ranger reported a stinging sensation after getting some of the substance on his hand, but the Utah Division of Water Quality said Friday that the water samples came back “normal” although since they were collected some 8 days after the foam was first reported, those tests may not be conclusive. A spokesman for the DWQ says a communication breakdown kept the department “out of the loop” until late last week.

A possible cause could be a leak from a natural gas well reserve pit owned by Enduring Resources of Colorado, near the White River, a tributary of the Green River. The company reports that its crew stopped the spill about one mile away from the White River and removed the fluid, but the BLM reported the distance to be a few hundred feet from the river. Investigations are continuing.

Although naturally occurring “detritus foam” is not unusual particularly at runoff time, experienced river runners speculate that in this instance it is not a natural phenomenon.

“Oil and gas company, sewage and other illegal dumping happens all the time,” says John Weisheit, Conservation Director of Living Rivers and the Colorado River’s Riverkeeper. He goes on to say “River runners are in a unique position to help catch polluters by reporting any suspected illegal dumping. Rangers and environmental law enforcement personnel cannot begin to patrol enough to catch most instances.” He has these tips for river runners traveling through remote sections of the Colorado River basin:

– Make sure to bring your own potable water when doing an upper basin (of the Colorado River drainage) river trip.

-If you see an illegal dump happening, get the license plate number and note the time and exact location.

– Take photos of any pollution problem you may see on the river and be sure to notify the staff of River Runners for Wilderness ( or the Colorado Riverkeeper (

For more information on the Green River foam, click the link: “Petroleum-like substance foams river in Utah’s Desolation Canyon” at the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel’s website and the Associated Press article at Official Pollution Investigation Continues.

Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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