On Monday, residents of the Antwerp municipality of Schoten noticed a strange change in the colour of the moat that is now visibly purple, baffling locals, the town’s mayor and environment agencies.
For now, there is no official reason for why the water suddenly coloured a dark purple and even the municipality’s environmental service, which immediately visited the site to take samples, could not identify a cause, according to reports from Radio 2 Antwerp. This week, the Flemish Environment Agency (VMM) will take samples of the water.
“We have not yet been on-site but based on what we can see in the photos, it could be the purple sulphur bacterium Chromatium okenii,” Katrien Smet, spokesperson for the VMM, told The Brussels Times. “On Thursday, we will take samples to then be analysed in our lab and, hopefully, have a definite answer.”
An isolated body of water
It is unlikely that pollution is behind the water’s discolouration and no company in the neighbourhood would have been able to pollute the water, according to the town’s mayor. It is more likely to be a natural cause that created the effect.
People have been advised not to let their dogs swim in the canal until it is clear whether the purple water is toxic or not. But so far no harm has been observed to the surrounding flora and fauna.
Een deel van de gracht gemeentepark #Schoten heeft een opvallende paarse kleur.
Er is geen uitzonderlijke sterfte bij dieren in de gracht. Maar laat in tussentijd je hond voor de zekerheid niet in de gracht zwemmen of van het water drinken.
— Gemeente Schoten (@gemSchoten) December 14, 2021
The tweet reads: “Part of the moat in the municipal park of Schoten has a striking purple colour. There is no exceptional mortality of animals in the canal. But in the meantime, to be on the safe side, do not let your dog swim in the canal or drink from the water.”
Locals have taken to social media where theories are circulating about what could have caused the discolouration: from dissolved coloured soaps to fluorescent dye to rotting acorns.
One commentator with a taste for the more far-fetched even posited the idea of an exceptionally bloody murder, according to De Gazet van Antwerpen. This conjecture is completely unsubstantiated.