(Photo: Natural foam build up near Ottawa Rowing Club on the Ottawa River. Photo courtesy of Paul Mudroch.)
If you’ve seen foam on the surface of one of your favourite waterbodies, there’s most likely no cause for alarm. The majority of foam we see on our river is just the result of organic matter in the water. When organic matter like leaves and twigs begin to break down, they release compounds into the water called surfactants, which create foam when water is turbulent. You can often see an example of foam build-up right downtown Ottawa near the Ottawa Rowing Club, where it can get up to a meter high.
Naturally occurring foam usually smells like fish or earth and has tan color. If you pick it up, smell it and it smells earthy, it’s our natural foam.
Usually unnatural foam has a really strong perfume coming from it, like soap. If you find foam that smells like perfume and is white, this indicates the presence of anthropogenic surfactants from detergents and soaps and is an indication of pollution.
Read more about foam with RappFLOW.
Call Ottawa Riverkeeper’s Pollution Hotline at 1-888-9KEEPER or fill out our electronic form. We can help you report the problem.